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State High Football: Lintal Looks To Continue Success As Little Lions Open Season

by on August 24, 2018 2:20 PM

Just four years ago Matt Lintal sat deep in his office, an oddly lit corner of the State College Area High School surrounded by the kind of plants and motivational posters that cover the landscape of every high school counseling wing in America.

Lintal, his father a former coach at State High, had grown up around football. The younger playing it under his father's watch and even coaching prior to his time in State College, it was a much a part of his life as anything.

Even so, buried in a pile of college literature and information about dozens of current students, Lintal -no matter his credentials- just didn't look like a so-called "football guy." Young, even perhaps energized from acceptable hours of sleep, he seemed eager to start a new chapter as State High football's latest coach.

But like all new endeavors that come with heightened responsibility, there is always the fear of the unknown, a lingering shadow of doubt that you might not quite be as good as you think. It's easy to picture how you might do the job, it's another thing to actually execute that plan.

Make no mistake though, entering his fifth year at the helm any subconscious doubts that may have existed are long buried. A hat tight to his head and a beard covering the fringes of a mouth barking commands into his headset have turned Lintal into something fully realized.

He's a football coach.

Even in his capacity as a counselor his role has hardened, he now oversees in-school suspensions.

In a reality free of sporting cliches, Lintal is still who he has always been. His players enjoy him, he is still young, likable and articulate. The only change; he is a bit more tired.

"I've learned a lot, I had a good idea what I was getting into, but I learned how to become a lot more efficient," Lintal said this summer. "I now have three children at home so I have to be a lot more efficient as I'm pulled in a lot of different directions."

Lintal will begin the latest chapter Friday night as the Little Lions look to continue a familiar Centre County motif, two-straight 10-win seasons in which State College has won 20 of its last 25 games, claiming titles along the way. Where the obligatory uncertainty of a new coach once stood, State High has found itself still among the best a deep and football rich state has to offer.

It shows, the Little Lions have shepherded a handful of players to Penn State among other Division I schools including senior Keaton Ellis who will make the short drive up the road next year to play in the secondary.

"We're super proud as a program whenever it says State College Area High School right next to those guys names," Lintal said. "We're proud of the kids that we send off. They represent our program their families, their state depending on where they go off to, so we're excited and we've been fortunate to have between seven to 10 kids go off and play college football each year which is exciting and this year is no different."

The challenge now of course is continuing that success, one that spans multiple coaches and has quietly transformed State High into the second best football team around. The down years are rare, the confusing losses even less common. While Pennsylvania continues to debate the clash between public and private schools playing on the same field, State College has taken the best to the wire in both classifications.

But much like James Franklin atop the hill across town, that is a product of looking at the next 24 hours, not the next 24 weeks.

"We don't focus on the end, we focus on what we can do right now," Lintal added. "Go 1-0 as Coach Franklin says, and so we're focused on (the next opponent) and improving each and ever day. If we can focus on what we can control and dominate what we can control we can have opportunity to have another successful season."

The Little Lions will look to start the season off 1-0 tonight as they take on Mifflin County at Memorial Field, and as Lintal roams the sideline half a decade into his head coaching tenure, it will be harder to remember a time when motivational posters and plants didn't have the company of one of the program's most successful coaches.

"I don't feel old yet." Lintal says with a smile.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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