It’s quite the standard the State College football team sets for itself.
If the season doesn’t stretch at least into the middle of November, regardless of the number of wins, it’s almost a disappointment.
For the fifth straight season, and 10th time in the last 11 years, the Little Lions have captured either a district or regional title. On Friday night at Memorial Field, it was a District 6 Class 6A championship after a 42-7 victory over Mifflin County.
“It’s really hard – every day is hard,” coach Matt Lintal said of that high standard, which has produced a district-best 17 overall crowns. “These kids are bought into the process, and they trust the process and know that it works.”
He also pointed out the process starts long before the team hits the field, with coaches, training staff, strength and conditioning programs and many other factors helping reach the lofty annual goals.
“It’s not just one thing,” Lintal said. “It’s not just Xs and Os, not just anything – it’s the combination of everything.”
The Little Lions (10-1) will meet either McDowell or Allderdice, who meet at 7 p.m. Saturday in Pittsburgh, in a PIAA subregional on Nov. 9 or 10.
Despite the long string of successful seasons, Friday night saw a new experience for the Little Lion players – District 6 medals hanging around every player’s neck. Previous recent seasons were regional titles, which do not earn medals.
“This feels great,” said running back Dresyn Green, who had 14 carries for 215 yards and a touchdown. “I’ve never gotten one of these (medals). We’re just going to keep going through the playoffs.”
Green led an offense that produced 288 yards on the ground and 389 yards of total offense through rain most of the game. Quarterback Tommy Friberg was 9 of 12 passing for 92 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. His yardage total gives him 3,719 for his career to break Chris Ganter’s record as the program’s top passer.
“That feels awesome,” Friberg said. “I’ve just kept working hard and getting after it.”
Senior quarterback Tommy Friberg and Coach Matt Lintal celebrate State College's District 6 Class 6A championship. Photo by Gordon Brunskill.
Keaton Ellis caught two of the scoring strikes, Cohen Russell hauled in the other and Isaiah Edwards found the end zone twice, rushing for 74 yards on nine carries.
State College got on the board first with a Friberg-to-Ellis 11-yard connection to the corner of the end zone. Ellis and the Little Lions thought they had a score on the first play of that drive, when he raced 77 yards through several tackles to the end zone, but a holding penalty wiped out the play.
Early in the second quarter, Ellis made the catch of the night on a seven-yard fade pass, blanketed well by a Husky defender but turning around perfectly and making a one-handed catch.
“It ended up working out,” Ellis said of the play. “I’m happy with that.”
“Keaton’s special,” Lintal said. “Anything he does doesn’t surprise us. The sky’s the limit for that kid.”
Less than two minutes later, the Little Lions struck again with a 15-yard connection from Friberg to Russell. Just over three minutes after that, following a 70-yard Russell punt return, Edwards was in the end zone on a 20-yard run. Russell, however, was injured on the return and left the game.
Mifflin County finally got on the board with an impressive 91-yard drive, capped by a Gate Schaeffer seven-yard run late in the first half.
The Huskies (6-5), who had won six straight entering the night, actually moved the ball well much of the game. They racked up 343 total yards, with 235 on the ground led by 92 yards on 22 attempts by Schaefer, and 14 rushes for 73 yards by Nathan Poche. Mifflin County had five other drives reach inside the State College 30 yard-line that did not produce points.
“It’s obviously frustrating,” coach Scot Sechler said. “We were able to move the ball around pretty well, we just couldn’t capitalize on things.”
Green found the end zone late in the third quarter, dancing along the sideline 31 yards for the score. He then set up another score early in the fourth with a 68-yard run, breaking one tackle after another before being dragged down at the 3, with Edwards trotting in on the next play.
Green was disappointed he could not finish those final three yards to get the score after working so hard to break through the Huskies’ defense.
“I need to finish that strong,” Green said. “I’m glad I could get that for our team, get that in the red zone and get us another touchdown.”
The Little Lions know every season begins with lofty expectations, and have no intentions to be done any time soon.
“We like that,” Green said. “It goes more to our motivation, our confidence to play each play our hardest.”
Photo by Gordon Brunskill
BEA Defeats Huntingdon to Advance to D6 AAA Final
By Geoff Rushton
Huntingdon took the lead 17 seconds into the District 6 AAA semifinal against Bald Eagle Area and the Bearcats had upset on their minds. The top-seeded Eagles, however, weren’t having it.
Bald Eagle (9-2) responded quickly and held off a second-half surge by Huntingdon (5-6) en route to a 47-27 victory on a rainy Friday night in Wingate. BEA advances to the district final next week against the winner of Saturday’s game between Forest Hills and Westmont Hilltop.
Huntingdon’s Tyson Cook took the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. But the Eagles came right back with a drive capped by quarterback Jaden Jones’ six-yard touchdown run and Peter Van Cise’s point after to tie things up.
With just over three minutes left in the first quarter, BEA’s Blake Roberts took a direct snap and broke free for a 70-yard touchdown run, giving the Eagles a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
While the Eagle defense held Huntingdon in check, Jones and the BEA offense opened up the lead.
With under seven minutes to play in the half, Jones rolled out to his right and hit Nick Turner in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
The Eagles tacked on another with 15 seconds left in the half as Jones lofted a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kael Gardner for a 28-7 advantage.
It looked like a runaway, but as the Eagle offense began to stall in the third quarter, the Bearcats took advantage. Capitalizing on an interception, Huntingdon quarterback Andrew Hudy connected with Andrew Miller for a 15-yard touchdown toss, narrowing the score to 28-14.
Huntingdon struck again on its next drive as Hudy avoided pressure and found Draven Zook for 33 yards to the Eagle 3. Andrew Finkle punched it in from three yards out and it was a one-score game at 28-21.
When it seemed all the momentum was on Huntingdon’s side, Jones led BEA on a drive to stem the tide. Facing third and 7, Jones scrambled for a long run into Bearcat territory. Then as Huntingdon brought the blitz, Jones got off a pass to Turner who outran single coverage and hauled in the catch for a 37-yard touchdown and a 34-21 lead.
After a Jones pooch punt pinned Huntingdon at its own 2 yard line, the Bearcats went for it on fourth and 5 from their own 7 with just over five minutes remaining. It would prove to seal the game for BEA, as Turner picked off Hudy’s pass at the 15 and ran it in for a score, giving the Eagles a 40-21 lead.
The BEA defense shut down the Bearcats’ last real shot at getting back into the game, and the Eagle offense kept the ball on the ground to run down the clock. With 1:24 left, Zach Wible got BEA on the board one more time with a one-yard touchdown run.
Huntingdon answered with a touchdown on a long Hudy pass with 24 seconds remaining, but it was too late for the Bearcats. BEA recovered the ensuing onside kick and knelt down to end the game.