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State High Football Looks to Grow in 2019

by and on August 22, 2019 3:43 PM

The Little Lions football team is heading into the 2019 season after a successful campaign that ended with a 12-2 record, the most wins in nearly a decade. The team placed second in the Mid Penn Commonwealth Conference with a 6-1 conference record, just behind Harrisburg which went 7-0.

For the second year in a row, State High made it to the quarterfinals of the PIAA 6A State Championships before being knocked out, but did improve overall from a 10-3 record in the 2017 season.

Head Coach Matt Lintal enters his sixth season at the helm of the Little Lions, ninth overall with the team. Lintal has an overall head coaching record of 47-18 at State High and the team won double-digit games each of the last three seasons.

Following the 2018 season, 30 seniors graduated from State High, including several impact players. The biggest names that have moved on from State College include quarterback Tommy Friberg, who threw for more than 4,000 yards in his two seasons under center, 2,393 of which were produced in his final season, along with 26 passing touchdowns.

Cornerback/wide receiver Keaton Ellis and wide receiver Cohen Russell — the team’s top two receiving yards leaders with 30 total touchdowns between them — also graduated in 2019.

“Guys like Keaton Ellis, Tommy Friberg and Cohen Russell are honestly irreplaceable,” said Lintal. “You just don’t take guys with three years of experience and a tremendous skill set and replace them overnight, so it’s going to take some time for sure.”

RETURNING IN 2019

While it’s always difficult to lose key players, Lintal noted a couple of stars that will take the field for the maroon and grey again in 2019.

“We do return two running backs that have rushed for over 1,000 yards in Isaiah Edwards and Dresyn Green,” said Lintal. “We also return a starting wide receiver, Brady Dorner, who will be our quarterback this year.”

“(Dorner) is a tremendous athlete and a tremendous quarterback who played four different offensive positions for us last year, so he really understands our entire scheme and what is asked of each position. (Green, Edwards and Dorner) are definitely going to be the guys that have to step up and fill those big shoes.”

Green, a sophomore in 2018, led the rushing attack with 102 carries and 1,012 yards, scoring 13 touchdowns while making an impact through the air with 13 receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown.

Edwards, a rising senior, was close behind in ground production, taking the rock 93 times for 806 yards and 15 touchdowns and made six catches for 95 yards.

The rising senior quarterback Dorner made 15 receptions for 169 yards through the air in 2018, carried the football seven times for 143 yards and a touchdown and completed both of his attempted passes, totaling 67 passing yards.

“(Dorner) is a tremendous football player, he’s got a real knack for the game,” said Lintal. “Last year in one game he played four offensive positions for us. We have very few kids that we’ve ever coached that have had the mental capacity to be able to do that.

“He’s a guy that has always been a team player, he could have probably been a starting corner and safety for us the last few years but we’ve needed him on the offensive side of the ball,” Lintal continued.

“He’s taken reps at quarterback on Friday nights since he was a freshman so while it’s a new role as starter at that spot it’s not a new experience for him. We’re excited to watch him grow and we think people will be really impressed with how he handles it here this season.”

On the defensive side of the ball, senior Kevin Kurzinger is flourishing in his role as a leader, though he wasn’t originally planning to be where he is.

“Kevin came into our program as a tenth grader as a quarterback,” said Lintal. “(He) has totally changed his body throughout the last couple years and through his extremely high work ethic in our weight room and just being consistent in there has developed into a tremendous asset as a defensive end.

“He’s a kid that could probably be a linebacker, a D-end, a tight end, he’s a kid that you could line up basically anywhere. Tough, hard-nosed, strong and explosive, leader on and off the field. He’s a great young man and I’m excited. He’s going to have a fantastic year.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Other notable returners Lintal mentioned he expects to step up in a leadership role in 2019 include rising senior offensive lineman Addison Darcy and senior defensive end Nate Lusk.

“We have some big shoes to fill, but I think we have some guys that can do that,” said Lintal.

Coach Lintal also listed several players that are expected to move into starting roles in 2019.

“Lokey Howell will probably be one of our starting slot receivers who’s had a dynamic summer, really has done a tremendous job,” said Lintal. “Conrad Moore will be another guy that will step in to a wide receiver (role) who is also a quarterback and also a safety. He’ll be on the field in some capacity.

“Carson Franks is another wide receiver/safety type. Sam Knipe has been a critical player for us and has been on the field for two years and is only going to be a junior that was brought up as a freshman and is a tremendous player so we’re excited about those guys for sure. The list really goes on but we gotta have some guys really rise up and get comfortable in a hurry for sure.”

EXPECTATIONS

When it comes to what Coach Lintal expects from his team, he kept it simple.

“One win at a time, you know we need to focus one week at a time and really handle it in that way. Our goals going in are always to win the district championship, win our Mid Penn Conference and if we can do those two things we think we have a shot to win the state championship.

“I believe we have the kids to be able to do that, we just need to come together and get better each and every week, each and every practice, each and every play.”

As for what he’s most excited about heading into the 2019 season, Lintal says he’s just excited to start so the team can get back into the rhythm a successful season demands.

“Honestly, there’s so much that goes into the preparation that goes into each and every year and the little things. I always just look forward to that opening kickoff of the season,” he said.

That opening kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday when the Little Lions travel to Lewistown to take on Mifflin County. The first home game of the season will be held in the South Track Field against St. Augustine Prep on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.

KEY GAMES

Aug. 23 — at Mifflin County

Sept. 13 — at Carlisle

Oct. 4 — versus Harrisburg

Oct. 11 — versus Central Dauphin

Pictured above are returning letter-winners for State College.  In front, from left, are Dresyn Green, Lokey Howell, Mac Heim, Kyle Domico, Trevor Beck and Jason Cameron. Row 2: Conrad Moore, Isaiah Edwards, Jimmy Manyak, Bryn Schoonover, Kobe Asendorf and Brady Dorner. Row 3: Addison Darcy, Nathan Lusk, Sammy Knipe, Kevin Kurzinger, Logan Lieb and Sam Storll.



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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