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State College High School Opens Season Friday Against Bethlehem Liberty

by on August 30, 2012 12:33 PM

District 11’s Bethlehem Liberty and State College enter their season-opener Friday night at 7 p.m. at Memorial Field under very similar circumstances.

Both teams are coming off of eight-win seasons, and both teams have to replace their quarterback and top running back. Both have a core of talented players returning, and both have their sights set squarely on qualifying for the PIAA playoffs in 2012.

The Hurricanes, 8-4 last season, lost all five of their top rushers from 2011, including 6-foot, 235-pound Stephon Font-Toomer and Jack Long. Operating out of the flexbone offense, those five runners accounted for a total of 3,724 yards and 40 touchdowns, and replacing them will be priority number one for Liberty.

Senior Ramel Days is set to take over for Font-Toomer, and although he does not have the size of Font-Toomer, he is said to be one of the strongest players on the team.

Junior Derek Byrd is the leading candidate to take over a quarterback, and he will have impressive targets to throw to. All-state senior wide receiver Boise Ross, a transfer from Pius X, has joined the team this year and will team up with K.J. Williams (31 catches, 617 yards, and 11 TDs in 2011) to pose a formidable threat on the outside.

If Byrd can get the ball to those playmakers consistently, Liberty’s offense will be explosive to say the least.

Liberty’s defense has been a concern, however. The Hurricanes gave up a total of 322 points last season, and that will have to improve if they are to get through the tough LVC Eastern Conference.

The story for State College is very similar. The Little Lions finished 8-5 last year and reached the PIAA quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive year, but they lost quarterback Josh Weakland and tailback Jack Haffner, who combined for a total of 3,700 yards of offense.

Haffner himself ran for 2,100 yards and 28 touchdowns, and he is now a freshman running back on the Penn State roster.

Andrew Kelly, with 960 all-purpose yards in 2011, returns and will likely split time at quarterback with Patrick Irwin at quarterback. Speedsters Dan Fry and Darien Herncane return on the outside, and fullback/linebacker Ryan Goeke will handle the tough running inside.

Defensively, State College gave up an average of more than 28 points per game, but Goeke, and defensive tackles Evan Galimberti and Amir Haywood will lead a group that is looking to vastly improve those numbers.

“We do not duck anybody,” State College head coach Al Wolski said. “Last year we opened with (state champion) North Allegheny, and now Liberty, so we don’t avoid anybody.

“We are right now trying to find out who we are, what our identity is, who our leaders are. We have a lot of question marks, but they are working hard and we’ll have to see how they end up.

“A quick start this season would be nice, rather than going 0-3 or 0-5.”

That quick start, at least in this game, will likely be determined by the effort of the defense. Both offenses have vast potential, but they are inexperienced, so the team that defends better will probably pull out a close victory.

State College's 2012 Schedule

Date                Opponent                                            Place                Time

08/31/12          Liberty HS                                             H                  7 PM

09/07/12          Central Mountain HS                               A                  7 PM

09/15/12          Father Judge HS                                     A                  2 PM

09/21/12          Harrisburg HS (Homecoming)                  H                  7 PM

09/28/12          Central Dauphin HS                                A                   7 PM

10/05/12          Chambersburg Area HS                           H                  7 PM

10/12/12          Central Dauphin East HS                         A                   7 PM

10/19/12          Carlisle HS                                             A                   7 PM

10/26/12          Mifflin County HS                                    H                  7 PM

11/02/12          Cumberland Valley HS                             H                  7 PM



Pat Rothdeutsch covers Penn State football for The Centre County Gazette. Email him at sports@centrecountygazette.com
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