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BEA, State College Football Continue March for State Titles

by and on November 22, 2019 5:00 AM

State College and Bald Eagle Area came through with impressive victories in their respective first-round PIAA tournament games last weekend, although Bellefonte ran into a very good Cathedral Prep team and lost by a score of 49-21 at Clarion University.

Prep was on fire from the very beginning as it ran out to early leads of 14-0, 21-7 and then 35-7 by halftime. Bellefonte did rally for two late scores in the final quarter, but the Ramblers’ lead was far too big.

That leaves the Little Lions and the Bald Eagles still in the running, and both will face major challenges on Friday.

Here’s a brief look at both games:

STATE COLLEGE (11-1) VS. PITTSBURGH CENTRAL CATHOLIC (11-1)
PIAA, 6A QUARTERFINAL
NORTH ALLEGHENY HIGH SCHOOL, WEXFORD

State College brought its A Game in last weekend’s 38-7 romp over Delaware Valley, but at one point, this week’s opponent, Central Catholic, had its back squarely against the wall against defending champion Pine-Richland.

In a 7-7 game, late in the fourth quarter, Pine-Richland drove to a first down at the Central 8-yard line. A penalty backed the Rams to the 18, but they still aggressively went after a touchdown.

A bit too aggressively, as it turned out, when Central’s Chase Horne intercepted a Cole Spencer pass at the 10 and returned it all the way to the Pine-Richland 31.

Three plays later, John Opalko kicked a 40-yard field goal, and Central held on to dethrone the Rams, 10-7, and move into the 6A Quarterfinals.

Central was able to win the game despite only gaining 138 total yards and completing just one pass (for 29 yards and a touchdown).

What the Vikings did have, however, was a solid defense that took away three fumbles and the interception from the Rams and held them to just 260 yards of offense. Central Catholic will come into the quarterfinal with an 11-1 record and on a nine-game winning streak. The Vikings lost their only game to North Allegheny, 11-10, on Sept. 6, and they haven’t lost since.

Central is almost a throwback in its approach. The Vikings run the ball almost exclusively, control the clock and play shut-down defense.

No team scored more than 14 points against them all season — that was done four times — and they held seven teams to less than 10.

Pine-Richland came into the Central game scoring all kinds of points — PR beat North Allegheny, for example, 49-14 — but the Rams could only score a single touchdown against the Vikings. In fairness, though, four turnovers and a Central goal-line stand may have had something to do with that.

Against State College, a team with an offense that is balanced and explosive like the Rams, Central will have to run the ball and control the tempo. That will not be easy against a very-good SC defense.

And the Vikes might need to get another four turnovers, but that won’t be easy either. State College is very good at avoiding giving the ball away.

So for the Little Lions, the top priorities in this game seem to be taking care of the ball and stopping the run. And it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a few big plays.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

BALD EAGLE AREA (10-3) VS. SHARON (9-3)
PIAA 3A QUARTERFINALS
CLARION UNIVERSITY

Speaking about having your back against the wall, you only have to ask the BEA Eagles what that felt like on Friday in their game against Bedford in the state first round game at Hollidaysburg.

BEA was down the entire night until a fourth-and-goal pass from Jaden Jones to Matt Reese tied the game at 14-14 with just 1:06 to play in the final quarter.

Then some more drama in overtime: BEA scored on a Jones 10-yard pass to Gage McClenahan to take a 21-14 lead.

Undaunted, Bedford struck back immediately when quarterback Mercury Swaim ran 10 yards and made the score 21-20.

But Bedford’s extra-point try to tie the game sailed wide and BEA’s only lead of the night held up for an intense 21-20 win and a ticket to the quarterfinals.

Now, in the PIAA 3A quarterfinals on Nov. 22, Bald Eagle Area will take on District 10 champion Sharon (9-3). Sharon will be in the second round of the state tournament for the third consecutive year, and the Tigers qualified this year with a 33-21 victory over Grove City on Saturday night.

Sharon was locked in a close game with Grove City late in the fourth quarter when, with a slim 26-21 lead, running back Tyvell Richardson broke free for a 37-yard touchdown and a 33-21 Sharon lead.

Richardson’s touchdown came with less than two minutes to play, and the Tigers held on for the win.

Sharon is an explosive offensive team that relies on a productive running game and an explosive passing attack. The Tigers run for more than 135 yards per game, but senior quarterback Lane Voytik leads a passing game that puts up more than 227 yards per outing.

Voytik this season has completed 199-of-318 passes for 2,711 yards and 28 touchdowns. He was intercepted just five times and brings a rating of 112.6 into the game.

Senior running back Brady Ortiz leads the running game with 793 yards on 93 carries (8.1 yards per carry) and four touchdowns, while Tylon Eilam leads the receivers with 1,095 yards and nine touchdowns on 69 catches. Against Grove City, Eilam had 13 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown.

BEA can closely match Sharon’s numbers on offense — the Eagles gain 303 yards per game compared to 360 for Sharon — and senior quarterback Jones is a dual threat to score at any time through the air or on the ground. It is the BEA defense that will be under pressure here.

A good performance that keeps Voytik, Ortiz and Eilam under control will give the Eagles a shot a moving on. As always in games this late, mistakes, turnovers and unlucky bounces can change things quickly and dramatically.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m.



This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.


Pat Rothdeutsch covers Penn State football for The Centre County Gazette. Email him at [email protected]
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