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Little Lions Looking to Improve on Successful 2016

by and on August 26, 2017 5:00 AM

Last year, The State College Little Lions ended their season with a 10-2 record, winning the Mid-Pen Commonwealth Championship and the regional championship for regions 6, 8, 9, and 10.

In 2017, despite graduating 18 players, the Little Lions have their eyes set on even greater success -- specifically, the state championship.

Head Coach Matt Lintal is heading into his fourth season at the helm of the team, and has been with the team for seven years. The team has had great success since he took the job, with a 25-13 record.

During State College Area High School’s media day, “excited” was Lintal’s word of choice as he talked about the team’s work in the preseason and the upcoming year.

“It’s been a great offseason, kids have really stepped up,” said Lintal. “I feel like this is the most productive summer we have ever had in my tenure. We’re ahead of the game in terms of install. We’ve had some great leadership with our senior class. The senior class is not a big one, but it’s a talented group with some great leaders so we’re really excited about the coming year.”

Among the 18 players that graduated last season were multiple key starters on both sides of the ball. Even so, Lintal knows that the future of the program continues to shine brightly.

“We have some young playmakers coming through the program that we’re extremely excited about,” said Lintal. “Obviously, any time you have some inexperienced guys there’s a learning curve so we’re trying to get them schooled up as quickly as we can.”

“We are returning some tremendous playmakers as well, Tristen Lyons as a running back, Cohen Russell as our slot receiver, Brandon Clark as a wide receiver as well, those are guys that are instrumental in our success last year and will be major factors this coming year.”

Arguably the loss of quarterback Tyler Snyder, but Coach Lintal has been impressed by two players vying for the position over the summer.

“Tommy Friberg and Brady Dorner are two experienced guys coming back that have done a tremendous job this summer,” said Lintal. “We’re really excited about that competition and the competition at every position. Obviously, you’re never 100 percent comfortable when you lose your starting quarterback, but we feel really comfortable considering it is August and with how those guys have progressed so far.”

As for the defense, inside linebackers Pete Haffner and Josh Ruffner graduated at the end of last year. They were both key players on the 2016 squad, and their absence will leave a big hole that the Little Lions will have to fill.

There are also three spots on the defensive line that have been vacated by graduations. Coach Lintal is confident that the players stepping up in practice will be ready to go by the start of the season.

There have already been multiple returning Little Lions that have stepped up into a leadership role during the summer. Coach Lintal spoke on a couple of those players and how the team is coming together.

“We feel really excited, we have a lot of guys returning, Jackson Heasley who was one of the leaders in the Mid-Penn conference in sacks last year, Ian Barr is a tremendous linebacker for us, Paul Olivett is an All-Conference safety, so we have some experience coming back,” said Lintal. “We also have Keaton Ellis, who does alright at corner so we are pretty excited about what we have coming back and a couple of other new faces that you see out there that we are also equally excited about as well.”

Ellis, a junior in 2017, recently received a scholarship offer to play football at Penn State when he graduates. The young wide receiver and defensive back is the first State High player since 2010 to be offered a scholarship from Penn State.

When asked what it meant to him to be a leader on this team and to carry on the tradition of excellence that past State High football players held, Ellis talked about how important it is.

“It’s huge, the culture and the history here is awesome and we’re trying to learn from those guys and do what they do,” said Ellis. “We’re trying to build off what they did, learn from them, and we have a lot of guys coming back to practices and I try to talk to them, pick their brain, learn from them and things like that.”

Across the board, the Little Lions are determined to win the Regional Championship, the Mid-Penn Championship, and now the State Championship in 2017. Some of the players had other notable goals as well.

“Our defensive coordinator, Coach Mike Snyder, rewards us with a steak dinner if we get a defensive touchdown,” said senior outside linebacker Ian Barr. “So that’s definitely a goal.”

Head Coach

Matt Lintal

2016 Overall Results

10-2

2016 Conference Record

5-1

2017 Schedule

Sept. 1 J.P. McCASKEY 7 p.m.

Sept. 8 HOLLIDAYSBURG 7 p.m.

Sept. 15 at Mifflin County 7 p.m.

Sept. 22 at Mechanicsburg 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 CARLISLE 7 p.m.

Oct. 6 at Cumberland Valley 7 p.m.

Oct. 13 Central Dauphin East 7 p.m.

Oct. 21 at Harrisburg 7 p.m.

Oct. 27 CHAMBERSBURG 7 p.m.

Nov. 3 at Central Dauphin 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.



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