Tyrone tight end Cory Lehman is going to be a college athlete.
A starter on the baseball team since he was a freshman, Lehman will without a doubt find someone in search of a heady catcher to fill out their roster.
He’s even heard from a school or two wanting him to play football.
One thing is for sure. Lehman won’t be playing quarterback at the college or university of his choosing, so his throw last night on the first play of the game against Philipsburg-Osceola may have been his one and only shot to get his name in the passing ledger.
On first down from the 31, Lehman took a reverse handoff in the backfield from his H-back position, but rather than sweeping around right end he threw to a wide open Tommy Hicks in the middle of the field.
The play advanced to the P-O 28, and while Tyrone didn’t score on the series it set an early tone in a 32-14 Tyrone win.
The last time Lehman threw a ball under that much duress, it was probably a bullet to second base to keep a runner from advancing. His pass to Hicks looked similar – a line drive that zipped 20 yards on a rope.
Of course, when you’re feeling the heat you go back to what you know best, which for Lehman is busting out of a crouch and throwing pellets, not rainbows. His pass to Hicks was on the money, but if it had gotten some air under it and led Hicks just a couple of steps the senior may have been looking at his first career touchdown pass.
Instead it was a 41-yard completion that took everyone by surprise.
Philipsburg-Osceola coach Brian McGonigal believed going into last night’s game that not only did his team – at 0-3 – match up favorably with Tyrone, but that the Mounties could shut down Tyrone’s running game.
For half the football game, McGonigal was right, though it wasn’t completely because P-O was stuffing Tyrone’s rushing attack. More often that not in the first half, it was because Tyrone was choosing not to run the football.
In the first quarter, the Golden Eagles called back-to-back running plays only once. On that occasion, the second run was actually a designed pass where Denver Light scrambled 22 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
In the second quarter, Tyrone ran 15 plays from scrimmage, and nine of them were passes.
By then you couldn’t knock the results. Tyrone had too many weapons for the Mounties to match up with man on man, and Light was hot. He completed five straight passes on the Eagles’ second possession of the quarter, including a 26-yard touchdown pass to Lehman. But it was interesting because Tyrone coach Jason Wilson had said going into the game he felt his team could run on the Mounties, and P-O is among the worst run defenses in the Mountain League.
“They were playing really aggressive up front,” Wilson said afterwards. “They played a lot better up front that we expected. I thought they played really well.”
In the second half Tyrone showed a little more of the game plan Wilson had hinted at earlier in the week, with Zac Albright getting 10 of his 19 carries on the way to a 100-yard game, but the Eagles desire to throw against the Mounties never subsided. Tyrone threw two picks in the second half while leading 32-14, ultimately passing the ball on 15 of the 29 plays it ran.
“We underthrew a lot of receivers. I thought we had some other chances there,” said Wilson.
Tyrone ran for 209 yards and scored three rushing touchdowns, so all’s well that ends well, but its desire to pass the ball at a clip more frequent than it was running it against a porous run defense was conspicuous.
In 20 attempts against P-O, Light made only one bad decision, and that was to force a high-arching pass to the end zone in the third quarter while looking for Damon Gripp. Instead the pass hung up long enough for Hunter Weitoish to get the pick at the 2 and return it all the way to the 30.
Still, Light’s numbers weren’t bad, and his decision-making ability – most notably choosing to tuck and run in the face of pressure – continued to get better.
He finished 10-for-20 for 129 yards and a touchdown, allowing his assent up the Tyrone career passing charts to continue. With 2,833 yards Light is now firmly entrenched in fourth place on the all-time list, ahead of Jarrod Anderson and just 67 yards away from Tyler Mertiff at number three.
Light’s touchdown pass to Lehman gave him 27 in his career, allowing him to leapfrog Erik Wagner into fourth place, one behind Anderson at number three.
Damon Gripp’s pick-six against the Mounties was the sophomore’s fifth interception of the season, and were it not for a ball going through his hands in Week 3 against Bishop Carroll he would have six picks and another score.
Matt Sharer (1995-97) is the single-season interceptions leader at Tyrone with 10 in 1996, the first of two All-State seasons for Sharer as a defensive back. Both Justin Schopp (2006) and Joe Steinbugl (1988) had nine in a season.
Five different players have had five picks in a single season, and Gripp’s numbers, if they were to hold for the final six games, would have him tied for the sixth-best season in school history.
Cullen Raftery was the last Golden Eagle to get five interceptions in a season in 2014.