Tyrone was victimized by some strange calls last night against Central in Roaring Spring.
The Eagles were flagged four times for having an ineligible player down field on a passing play, which was unusual given the circumstances. Each time the official threw his yellow handkerchief to the ground it was on throws where the quarterback essentially released the ball the second he got it, hardly enough time for a lineman to make it three yards past the line of scrimmage.
The fourth time it was called may have been the most disappointing. Sophomore Brandon Lucas, who was spelling starting quarterback Denver Light, took the snap in shotgun formation and lofted a 50-50 ball to Damon Gripp near the right hashmark. Gripp outdueled Thad Albright to make the catch, stumbled to regain his footing, and then was off to the races on a 63-yard scoring play.
It quite the looker, for sure, but it was coming back, which didn’t sit too well with Gripp.
But the sophomore would get a small piece of redemption in the fourth quarter while playing on the other side of the ball. On Central quarterback Noah Muthler’s final passing attempt of the game, Gripp picked the senior off at the 41 and took it to the house untouched.
“I wanted a touchdown today,” Gripp said afterwards. “When that one got called back it was a bummer, but I got another one.”
It was a fitting way for the Golden Eagles to close the scoring in their 33-13 victory over the Scarlet Dragons, considering how heavily turnovers had weighed in the game. Gripp came away with four picks of Muthler all by himself, while Noah Zimmerman and Cameron Vincent each had fumble recoveries.
Four of the Dragons’ turnovers set up Tyrone touchdowns as the Golden Eagles defeated Central for the first time since 2014.
“Damon is a special athlete. He’s still pretty raw at the position, but he has the athletic ability to be able to cover some things up,” said Wilson. “He played excellent tonight. He was just all over the field. He’s a playmaker. With these younger guys, there’s a lot of kids who are not afraid to make a mistake. They’re playing to win. I think that’s something we’ve lacked the last couple of years. The younger guys are going to go after the ball and make plays happen.”
Gripp set up the Eagles’ first score when he intercepted Muthler at midfield with 5:35 left in the first quarter. Light was sacked on first down before Zac Albright shook free for a 22-yard run to the 38. Two plays later Light unleashed an absolute laser to Tommy Hicks on a slant for a touchdown with 3:31 remaining. Keegan Raabe’s first of three PATs made it 7-0.
A fumble recovery by Zimmerman set up Tyrone’s next score, which made it 14-0 in the second quarter. But more than forge a two-touchdown lead, the scoring drive established Tyrone’s superiority at the line of scrimmage once and for all, and that impacted the game for the rest of the night. After a pass interference penalty set up the Golden Eagles at their own 46, Albright took a handoff to the right, slipped through the line, and outraced the defense on a 54-yard touchdown run that had Tyrone’s crowd humming and engaged for the remainder of the game.
“As soon as I hit the hole and bounced outside, I saw my receiver take the cornerback inside, and I knew I was gone,” said Albright. “I just felt it, and I knew it.”
While the play was a highlight for Albright, he was far from finished. He had six carries that resulted in gains of 11 or more yards and finished with a career-best 200 yards on 26 attempts. The Eagles grossed 256 yards on the ground (they gave back 12 simply kneeling the ball as time wound down in the fourth) and essentially ran at will against a Dragon defense whose forte was stopping the run.
“I thought going in we could have success moving the ball on the ground,” said Wilson. “I really felt comfortable that we could execute our blocking up front. I was more worried about making sure we got a hat on a hat on the guys we were supposed to get on. I thought once we got locked up on them, if we blocked the right guys, we could open up a lot of seams. Linebackers shooting through the gaps – that’s where they make a lot of their plays. So my worry was more making sure we got on the right guys. And I thought if we did that we definitely could move the ball and we did.”
While Central cracked the scoreboard twice, the truth is it could have just as easily been shutout because both of the Dragons’ scores came on the tail end of a Tyrone miscue. After Gripp ended a late second-half march with his second interception at the Eagles’ 24, Tyrone went right to the air with 1:06 to go in the first half and a 14-0 lead. Light’s pass to Cory Lehman sailed just enough for Thad Albright to pick it off, and four plays later Muthler ended a 42-yard advance with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Albright to make it 14-7.
The Dragons’ only touchdown of the second half, a two-yard run early in the fourth quarter by Muthler that capped another 42-yard drive, occurred soon after Tyrone, ahead 26-7, chose to run on fourth-and-1 from inside their own territory.
But in the final analysis the plays weren’t backbreakers because Tyrone could move the ball almost at will with its running game, and by stopping the Dragons’ running game when the tables turned, Central was a one-dimensional team, one that Tyrone’s secondary – Gripp in particular – could handle. The Dragons produced only 52 yards on the ground, becoming the second straight opponent to be held under 100 yards rushing by Tyrone’s quickly improving defense.
After the unit forced a quick three-and-out to start the second half, Tyrone’s offense took over at its own 45, and on the second play of the series Light went left on an option keeper and outran the defense on a 45-yard gain to the 8. Three plays later he reversed his field on a four-yard touchdown run that put the Eagles ahead 20-7 with 7:55 left in the third.
Gripp intercepted Muthler two plays into the Dragons’ next series, and soon after Light found Brandon Homan streaking alone behind the defense on a 26-yard touchdown pass to make it 26-7.
It was Tyrone’s most lopsided win over the Dragons since 2011, and it was a game the players felt they needed to follow up last week’s season-opening win over Bellwood-Antis.
“It’s honestly even bigger than Bellwood,” said Albright. “We’ve been beaten by these guys for three years straight. To finally beat these guys, it’s a great feeling.”
Wilson agreed, noting the importance of the win for playoff positioning. The Dragons play in the same 3A classification as Tyrone, and a year ago it was early-season gaffs that had the Eagles scrambling to make the postseason come October.
“This is huge,” said Wilson. “Even at the end of the year, these games are the ones that come back to haunt you. It’s one game at a time. These guys are focused on their goals. It’s a big win, and two straight weeks now two very physical games to get the momentum rolling.”
- If the Eagles didn’t show exceptional speed against B-A, they did last night. Both Albright and Homan pulled away from the defenders on their long scoring plays, while Light, on his 45-yard run in the third quarter, created separation from the Dragons’ linebackers and defensive backs just past the line of scrimmage to get to the outside. Gripp, as well, on his interception return and overturned touchdown reception, raced past defensive players.
- The game took on a strange feel at the start of the second half because lightning just after halftime had delayed the start of the third quarter by an hour and 40 minutes, making the start time 10 p.m. Spectators were asked to leave the bleachers altogether and return at the appropriate time. When 10 p.m. rolled around, Tyrone’s fans returned in droves to fill the visitors side, while many Central supporters left. According to Wilson, that made a huge impact on the team. “Once again tonight … the crowd. The student section was here, and you could feel the momentum. I actually told our guys when we came back after the lightning delay, we have more fans still here than what they do. The kids loved it, too. It got them really pumped up.”
- The Eagles came prepared to hit as much as any time in the Jason Wilson era, and the action on the field was not for the faint of heart. Homan delivered several jarring hits in the secondary to break up pass attempts, Albright and Braeden Nevling-Ray had a couple nasty pops, but few hits came close to the one delivered by Kohlton Fink in the first quarter on punt coverage. He de-cleated Central’s Thad Albright after he was turned to the inside by Nevling-Ray, lifting the senor off the ground in a classic form tackle before dumping him to the turf.
- Tyrone will now prepare to play Bishop Carroll in its first ever meeting with the school, which is an associate member of the Mountain League in 2018.
TYRONE 7 7 12 7 – 33
CENTRAL 0 7 0 6 – 13
T – Hicks 35 pass from Light (Raabe kick) 3:31
T – Albright 54 run (Raabe kick) 2:42
C – Albright 8 pass from Muthler (Keith kick) :33
T – Light 4 run (PAT blocked) 7:55
T – Homan 32 pass from Light (PAT failed) 4:50
C – Muthler 2 run (PAT failed)
T – Gripp 41 interception return (Raabe kick) 1:25
First Downs 12 13
Yards Rushing 235 52
Passes Att.-Comp. 4-14 19-43
Yards Passing 82 197
TOTAL YARDS 317 249
Intercepted by 4 1
Fumbles/recovered 2-1 2-2
Punts/avg. 5-27.4 3-36.6
Penalties/yards 10-75 4-35
TYRONE – Albright 26-200; Light 7-47; Zimmerman 2-9; TEAM 4-(-21).
CENTRAL – Muthler 12-27; Marko 4-15; Quarello 3-6; Parks 1-1; Imler 1-4; Kurtz 1-(-1); Walters 1-0.
TYRONE – Light 4-12-82, 1 TD, 2 Int.; Lucas 0-2-0.
CENTRAL – Muthler 19-43-197, 1 TD, 4 Ints.
TYRONE – Gripp 1-6; Lehman 1-15; Hicks 1-24; Homan 1-26.
CENTRAL – Albright 8-79; Kitt 2-25; Walters 2-18; Parks 4-49; Quarello 1-3; Marko 1-0; Kurtz 1-10.