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Local Athletes Shine in Second Half of 2017

by and on January 05, 2018 4:30 AM

In part 2 of the review of 2017 in Centre County sports, Pat Rothdeutsch looks back on what happened in local athletics from June through December. Read part 1 here.

As the end of the 2016-17 school year approached, there were other Centre County teams who stood out, in addition to the baseball and softball teams.

In boys’ volleyball, after a successful regular season, State College narrowly lost to Altoona, 3-2, in the District 6 championship. The Little Lions were ahead 10-2 in the final set before the Mountain Lions rallied to take the set and the match.

The State College boys’ lacrosse team edged Erie McDowell, 7-5, to advance into the 2017 PIAA tournament. The Little Lions didn’t stop there, as they went on to beat Shady Side, 7-6, in the first round. Next up was powerful Mount Lebanon, No. 2 out of District 7, and the Lions’ season came to an end with an 11-4 loss in the quarterfinals.

In girls’ lacrosse, the Lady Little Lions pulled off a mild surprise when they scored seven goals in the first half and upended McDowell in the PIAA subregional by a final score of 9-5.

They were on the verge of a major surprise against 21-1 Fox Chapel when they led by two goals with less than five minutes to play in the first-round PIAA match. Fox Chapel rallied, however, and pulled out a last-minute 10-9 win that ended the season for State College.

That all added up to quite a lot of success for county schools, and quite a year in particular for the State College Little Lions. 


All-Star Football

It may have seemed like early November to some, but the 2017 edition of the annual Lezzer Lumber Classic Football All-Star Game was played at Altoona’s Mansion Park.

The North squad, with 17 players from Centre County high schools on its roster, broke a two-year drought by relying on its defense and ground game to tough out a 17-7 victory over the South in what could be called less than perfect conditions.

State College’s Tyler Snyder and Hunter Miller, of Brockway, shared the quarterbacking duties, but it was the running backs who stole the show for the victorious North team.

After the North took a 7-0 lead into the third quarter, Jarrett Cavalet broke loose for a 57-yard touchdown that tied the game with 10:21 remaining in the third quarter.

But just as the South gained momentum with a subsequent big stop, State College’s Aziz Salamy came up with a game-changing interception that led to a touchdown and a 14-7 North lead.

Another long North drive in the fourth quarter stalled deep in South territory, inside the 10-yard line. Kicker Jarrett Esposito then kicked a 26-yard field goal that wrapped up the scoring.

Snyder finished with 3 of 9 passing for 66 yards, and Miller hit on 4 of 6 for 31 yards and an interception. For his efforts, State College’s Peyton Edwards, who led a North defense that held the South to just seven first downs and 144 total yards, was awarded the defensive MVP.

Other players who were named to the North team from local schools included: St. Joseph's Jake Stormer; Penns Valley's Jared Hurd, Andrew Tobias, Luke Snyder, Ryan Long and Christian Rudolph; Bellefonte's Eli Lipscomb, Jaiden Boone and Gavin Danneker; Bald Eagle Area's Michael Salvanish and Hunter Weston; Philipsburg-Osceola's Brad Dunkel; and State College's Will Swope and Kam’ron Walker.

Little League

In Little League baseball, Bellefonte waded through the losers’ bracket to take the District 5 Championship, and then had to face the same adversity after an opening loss in the Section 4 Tournament.

The Bellefonte All Stars hit numerous home runs under many different conditions during their hectic two-week run through the District 5 and Section 4 Little League tournaments.

Unfortunately, the final home run in Bellefonte’s magical season was hit by its opponent.

Hollidaysburg’s Ethan Stevenson hit a walk-off, three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning that gave his Tigers an 8-6 victory and the Section 4 LL championship.

Bellefonte came into that final inning ahead by two runs and on the verge of unbelievably taking both playoff tournaments coming through the losers’ bracket and beating the upper-bracket team twice.

But Hollidaysburg scored a run earlier in the sixth to make it 6-5, and then Stevenson came to the plate with two-on, two-out, and everything on the line.

He took the count to 2-and-2 and then sailed the next pitch over the left-center field fence. The homer nailed down the S-4 title and put the Tigers into the Little League  Pennsylvania State Championship Tournament.

Centre County Baseball League

The Clarence Mounties know that with the Greene brothers, Bryce and Bryan, on their team, sooner or later total chaos is bound to break out.

On Aug. 6, in the third game of the CCBL final series against Philipsburg, the Greenes decided it was time for some of that chaos in the fifth inning of a tied ball game.

So Bryan and Bryce, in that order, completely blew up an innocuous sacrifice bunt play and turned the total disarray that followed into the winning two runs of Clarence's 5-3 series-deciding win over Spike Island.

Justin Taylor retired six of the final seven batters he faced on the way to a complete-game six-hitter that brought home Clarence’s second CCBL championship in a row. The Mounties finished the season with a record of 23-1 and were a perfect 6-0 in the playoffs. 


High school football

It was off to the PIAA state football tournament for the Bellefonte and State College football teams, after both came through with big wins Nov. 9 in the District 6 tournament.

Both the Raiders and the Little Lions completed outstanding regular seasons and then advanced through the District 6 playoffs and into the PIAA tournament.

The Raiders won their first District 6 championship since 1999 with a 34-12 win over Johnstown, and State College won its fourth straight sub-regional playoff game, 48-12, over Erie Area.

Both teams represented the district when the tournament began Nov. 17 and 18, and both faced difficult challenges in their first-round games.

The Little Lions battled back for a 21-14 victory over previously unbeaten Delaware Valley on Nov. 17 and advanced into the state quarterfinals to face an old foe and the No. 1-ranked team in the state: Pine-Richland.

At messy Mansion Park Field in Altoona, however, Bellefonte did not fare so well. The Raiders lost their leading offensive threat and team leader Dylan Dietrich early in the first quarter and could not make up the difference against Selinsgrove on Nov. 18.

The Seals took advantage of Bellefonte’s revamped offense and broke away for a 37-3 victory and a trip to the quarterfinals.

For Bellefonte, it was a difficult end to what was, from any standpoint, a tremendously successful season. At 10-3, Mountain League co-champions, District 6 champions and state qualifier, the team’s progress was remarkable.

Photo by Heather Weikel

State College went into the PIAA state quarterfinal against Pine-Richland with a 11-2 record and thoughts of avenging a 2014 PIAA playoff loss to the same team.

But Pine-Richland, a team on a mission, built a big early lead against the Lions and held off SC in a 49-21 win Nov. 25 at Hempfield High School.

The loss ended the season for State College, but Pine-Richland went on to win the state title with a 41-21 win over St. Joseph’s Prep in Hershey on Dec. 9.

High school soccer

In other action, State College and Altoona squared off at Bald Eagle Area High School on Oct. 31 in both the girls’ and boys’ District 6 AAAA soccer championship games.

Both games ended with scores of 1-0, and for the Little Lion girls, that meant taking home their 10th-straight D-6 championship trophy.

For the boys, it meant the end of their own five-year title run in a stunning defeat at the hands of the Mountain Lions.

SC’s Alison Houtz scored the only goal just seven minutes after the game started and the Little Lions made it stand up for the 1-0 win over Altoona.

SC had more chances — the Lions outshot Altoona by a wide margin — but were not able to connect. No matter, the Little Lions’ defense was up to the challenge.

Entering the PIAA state tournament, the Little Lions ran into eventual state champion Norwin and suffered a 4-0 loss at Altoona’s Mansion Park on Nov. 7. The loss ended the season for SC.

The State College boys also threw a shutout at Altoona, but the outcome of that game was much different.

In a bizarre turn of events, a early-game back pass to the Little Lion goalie somehow got past him and rolled into the net for an own-goal and a 1-0 Altoona lead.

The Mountain Lions accepted the gift and made it stand up for the D-6 title and a trip to the PIAA tournament.

For the Little Lions, who won their first-ever Mid-Penn Commonwealth championship this season, it was an abrupt and painful end to the season. But SC finished with a very respectable 13-5-1, and as coach Danny Orton said after the game, won’t let one loss detract from all of their successes.

High school volleyball

In District 6 AA girls’ volleyball, undefeated Bald Eagle Area made short work of Ligonier Valley with a 3-0, 25-10, 25-13, 25-23 victory in the quarterfinals held at BEA.

The win improved the Lady Eagles’ record to 17-0 and won them a spot in the D-6 semifinals against Westmont Hilltop, again at home.
Westmont qualified for the game with a 3-0, 26-24, 25-10, 25-22 victory over up-and-coming Penns Valley.

The Lady Rams came into the match with a 10-4, their best ever, and with high hopes of extending their season. But after a back-and-forth first set, Westmont asserted itself with a 25-10 win.

BEA extended its undefeated record with a win over Westmont, but, in what was a recurring theme for Centre County teams, took on eventual state champion Freeport in the first round of the PIAA tournament. Freeport, which went on to beat Delone Catholic (another undefeated team) in the final, eliminated BEA in straight sets, 3-0.

State College, meanwhile, entered the PIAA tournament with a 15-3 record, but the Lions also lost in the first round to Senaca Valley, 3-0, Nov. 7 at Penn Cambria High School in Cresson. 

High school cross-country

By the largest winning margin in any classification, the Penns Valley boys’ cross-country team took home its first-ever PIAA state championship Nov. 4 in Hershey.

It was not only the first state title for the PV cross-country team, it was the first state championship for any boys’ team in Penns Valley history.

The Rams team, comprised of four seniors and three freshmen, took home the team title by 27 points over second-place Elk County Catholic. PV had a total of 68 points to 95 for Elk County and 101 for third-place Montrose.

Talented freshmen Colton Sands led the way for Penns Valley, placing 10th in 16:48. Senior Chris Colwell took 15th in 16:55 and freshman Brendan Colwell was 18th in 17:02. Sam Gray was the Rams’ fourth individual medalist on the day at 17:10 for 24th place, and senior Mark Bierly was 44th in 17:37 to account for the scoring five. Charlie Romig took 51st in 17:42 as the Rams’ superior depth proved to be a major factor for Penns Valley.

After a ninth-place finish last season, and with five of six runners returning, PV came into 2017 with high expectations. Add three freshmen to the mix — including Sands — and the Rams arrived in Hershey ranked No. 1 and determined to keep that rank after the meet was completed.

In the girls’ single-A class, defending champion St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy was edged out by Fairview, 96-99, and denied a second-straight title. Julia Cusatis was 12th for SJCA, with a time of 19:52.

And for the SJCA boys, Carter Kaufmann was 23rd in 17:09.

In 3-A, the State College boys came in with an 11th-place finish with 257 points  and the girls placed fifth with 185. Mitchell Etter was the top finisher for the SC boys with a 14th-place finish in 16:21 and Kileigh Kane took the girls’ honors in 12th place at 19:10.

LaSalle College High School won the boys’ 3-A title over Council Rock North, and Fox Chapel won the girls’ side.

And, in AA, Bellefonte's Brett Pope was 28th in 17:00, and Amber Shirley came in at 21:32.

Penn State football

After another 10-win regular season, Penn State completed the circle with a 35-28 victory over Washington in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 30.

Saquon Barkley, in what he later announced was his final game as a Nittany Lion, rushed for 137 yards and scored two touchdowns as Penn State ran out to a 28-7 lead and then held on against the Huskies for the Pick-6 victory.

Trace McSorley won the Offensive Player of the Game after throwing for 325 yards and completing passes to nine different receivers. McSorley also completed 12 out of 12 passes on third down and led the Lions to 525 total yards of offense against the highly ranked Washington defense.

Although there will be many graduations — along with Barkley’s move to the NFL — head coach James Franklin’s team signed a Top 5 recruiting class on Dec. 20 and the future looks very bright for the Lions.


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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