There’s no quarterback controversy in Tyrone. Denver Light’s 218 passing yards and four touchdowns in the Golden Eagles’ 44-7 walloping of Bishop Carroll at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field Friday night guaranteed that.
It was Light’s second 200-yard passing game this season, and it showed just how strong the chemistry has grown between the senior signal-caller and his young group of athletic wide receivers.
But as well as Light and his posse played, backup quarterback Brandon Lucas put on quite a performance when he came on in the fourth quarter for the second straight week.
Just a sophomore, Lucas completed his only pass for a touchdown to Tommy Hicks – one of five touchdowns allowed by the Huskies overmatched secondary – and later turned in Tyrone’s run-of-the-season so far. With the Eagles simply trying to run out the clock up 38-7, Lucas went off right tackle at his own 35, cut back across the field where he broke two tackles at the 50, and then brushed aside Ryan Bohrer with an old school stiff arm at the 30 to create the distance he needed to get in the end zone on a 65-yard score.
It was one of nine plays of 22 yards or longer Tyrone broke open against the Huskies, of which four went for touchdowns.
“I didn’t want to slow down. I was just running full speed,” said Lucas. “I was able to beat him out and get in the end zone.”
Tyrone improved to 3-0 for the first time since Coach Jason Wilson’s rookie season in 2014, when the Golden Eagles parlayed a quick start out of the gate into a No. 2 seed in the playoffs and a District 6 championship. And while Wilson would probably prefer a more balanced effort that sustains drives a little better offensively, he was pleased that for the second straight week his team was able to come through with impact plays to swing the game.
“I’m not saying I don’t like big plays,” Wilson said with a chuckle when asked if he would classify the Eagles as a big-play team. “I’ll take big plays anytime we can get them, but I also want to be an efficient offense where defenses can look at us and say this offense just moves the ball and we’re going to have trouble stopping them. I don’t want to rely on big plays to win football games.”
Against Carroll, which dropped to 1-2, big plays were there for the taking thanks to the Huskies’ living-on-the-edge defense that was sending linebackers blitzing up the gut on seemingly every play.
There’s no question the strategy disrupted the Golden Eagles game plans. Light was sacked twice in the first half for huge losses to squash promising drives and eight total plays came to an end behind the line of scrimmage.
But the risky approach also put Carroll defensive backs on an island against a group of receivers that is growing in confidence every week.
The results were predictable: Gripp finished with four receptions for 93 yards and two touchdowns – one in the second quarter, one in the fourth – while Brandon Homan had three catches for 55 yards and a 32-yard score to start the fourth. Tommy Hicks grabbed three passes for 40 yards ans a score.
“They stacked the box. I don’t know how many passing yards (Light) had but we were trying to get rid of some of the short stuff,” said Wilson. “Some of the longer developing plays we just weren’t getting because they were stacking the box with seven and sending blitzes, and we were messing up some things up front. So we switched to some of the shorter passes to get (the ball) out. Denver did a much better job in the second half staying the pocket and being able to hit the receivers.”
With Gripp, especially, Light has formed a special kind of relationship. His first score in the second quarter came on a 50-50 ball Light put up for grabs against the Carroll blitz, and his second in the third quarter wasn’t much more than Gripp using his wheels to create separation.
Light offered high praise for Gripp, who is in his first varsity season.
“He’s a heck of an athlete,” he said. “He’s really good at basketball. He started varsity there last year. He reminds of a young Parker Mitchell. He can just get up and get a ball, and I trust him completely. I trust that I can throw the ball out there, and he can get it.”
While the Huskies came into the game with a reputation for running the football, averaging 292 yards per game on the ground, they managed just 120 against Tyrone and saw nine plays shut down in the backfield, netting a mere 3.2 yards per rush. Cory Lehman, Braeden Nevling-Ray and Isaac Jackson each had two stops for loss, while Arik Reader and Homan came away with fumble recoveries.
Through three games Tyrone is allowing only nine points per game while averaging three takeaways, and it’s enough to make Wilson, who spent five years as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, pretty proud.
“(The defensive line) definitely set the tone. Our defense played well all game,” said Wilson. “We have a pretty good defensive front. It was tough to get a gauge of what (Carroll was) going to be like. They have a lot of talent. Their quarterback is very talented. They run a really good option game, which had me concerned going in. But when you get pressure up front on that option … that really helps the second level guys converge onto the option and make plays, and that’s what our defensive front did to them.”
It wasn’t just in the trenches where the Huskies were overmatched, and Carroll coach Sean Billings knew it. After falling behind in the first quarter on a 10-yard touchdown reception by Hicks, the Huskies tied it back up briefly, and then only when a missed assignment on a punt allowed Jarrett Grove to come loose up the middle and block Arik Reader’s kick. Grove returned it 32 yards to make it 7-7 with 9:45 left in the second quarter, but Carroll generated little else afterwards.
Tyrone came back with a Gripp touchdown reception and a Keegan Raabe field goal before halftime to make it 17-7, and then extended the lead immediately in the third when Homan hauled in a 32-yard scoring pass in the wake of a Reader fumble recovery on the first play of the half.
“Our pass defense has been our shortcoming, and we’ve really addressed it,” said Billings. “We’ve got to hit a little more and make sure we’re prepared for everything.”
Billings said he knew coming in Tyrone’s advantage in athleticism would be a factor.
“We saw on film that they’re really good at elongating the play, and they’ve got some really good playmakers that make these plays,” said Carroll coach Sean Billings. “You can’t fault them for that. They’ve got great athletes. There were times when I thought our defense looked stout, and we were right on top of them. Then there were times when one missed assignment killed us.”
- Kyle Silva may only be a sophomore, but he’s one of a small group of underclassmen who have stepped into the starting lineup and made a huge difference this season. Silva had one tackle for loss and several others right at the line of scrimmage against Carroll after missing last week’s game against Central. He also drew a personal foul penalty in the third quarter. Noah Zimmerman has also provided a spark playing opposite Light at inside linebacker, while the addition of Gripp and Homan in the secondary make Tyrone’s pass defense pretty solid.
- Zac Albright continued to run with a real purpose, gaining 93 yards on 16 carries. He also caught three passes out of the backfield for 32 yards. On Tyrone’s first scoring drive, which went 67 yards, Albright covered the first 57 on two rushes and an 11-yard reception.
- After being flagged four times last week for having an ineligible man downfield on a pass (only one penalty was enforced), the Eagles were not called for the penalty at all last night. It was the same officiating crew that Tyrone had a week ago in Roaring spring.
- Tyrone will travel to Philipsburg next week to play the Philipsburg-Osceola Mounties. Tyrone has not lost to P-O since 2004.
TYRONE 44, BISHOP CARROLL 7
BISHOP CARROLL 0 7 0 0 – 7
TYRONE 7 10 14 13 – 44
T – Hicks 10 pass from Light (Raabe kick) 5:21
B – Grove 32 punt block return (Hogue kick) 9:45
T – Gripp 33 pass from Light (Raabe kick) 7:25
T – Raabe 20 FG :00
T – Homan 32 pass from Light (Raabe kick) 11:37
T – Gripp 47 pass from Light (Raabe kick) 6:53
T – Hicks 19 pass from Lucas (Raabe kick) 11:08
T – Lucas 65 run (PAT failed) 3:28
First Downs 14 5
Yards Rushing 151 120
Yards Passing 237 66
Total Yards 388 186
Intercepted by 0 0
Fumbles/recovered 1-1 3-2
Penalties/yards 3-15 5-40
Punts/avg. 3-37-3 4-35
Tyrone – Albright 16-93; Lucas 2-67; Light 6-(-5); Hicks 1-(-2); Fink 1-(-2).
Bishop Carroll – Becquet 9-47; Dumm 3-31; Zazvrskey 13-13; Hogue 7-13; Grove 1-1; Beiswenger 2-0; Novak 1-2; Yahner 1-7.
Tyrone – Light 12-20-218, 4 TDs, 0 Int.; Lucas 1-1-19, 1 TD, 0 Int.
Bishop Carroll – Zazvrskey 5-9-66, 0 TD, 0 Int.; Novak 0-1-0.
Tyrone – Gripp 4-93; Albright 3-32; Hicks 3-40; Homan 2-55; Locke 1-16.
Bishop Carroll – Hogue 3-58; Dumm 2-8.