Yes, Tyrone was manhandled in the second half by a physical Bellefonte football team with a running back who is an absolute stud in the making.
Yes, the Eagles imploded with penalties just when things started to go south.
Both of those issues were factors in the Golden Eagles’ 31-14 loss to Bellefonte last night at Alumni Stadium in Wingate.
But if you want to know where the wheels fell off, it was late in the third quarter, with the game tied 14-14, on a play where everything was titling towards the Eagles.
On first down from the Bellefonte 45, Braeden Nevling-Ray dropped Raider quarterback Kyle Myers for his fourth sack of the night. It put Bellefonte behind the sticks, and to that point the Raiders had not done well in long down and distance situations.
Lost in the action, Nevling-Ray caught the turf and came up limping. He had to go to the sidelines, and while he would return to the game later his absence for two plays became an enormous burden.
On third down, needing 16 yards, Myers scooted around as the pocket began to collapse and almost went down for a sack, but he escaped the pressure and broke free for a 29-yard gain to Tyrone’s 32.
Five plays later, two minutes into the fourth quarter, Myers completed a pass on the roll out to Noah Badger for 12 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.
Bellefonte would go on to add 10 more points, outscoring Tyrone 24-0 in the second half to remain undefeated at 5-0 and 4-0 in the Mountain League.
Tyrone (4-1, 3-1) suffered its first defeat of the season while falling to the Raiders for the third straight year.
Had Nevling-Ray, who would leave the game again in the fourth quarter, been able to stay on the field and prevent the Myers scramble, it’s possible the outcome could have been different. But in the end what Tyrone needed was more than one stop on one isolated play. The Eagles needed to be more physical, because person for person that was a battle the Eagles had little chance of winning in the second half.
“The one thing we talked about at halftime was trying to be extremely physical and pushing this game hard into the fourth quarter,” said Manning, who wrapped up his third straight victory over the Golden Eagles. “We felt like we put a lot of time into conditioning, and we were like, let’s push this hard. These guys are a big, physical, mature team. We’re not. We knew that. And we had to make it go as physical as we could push it for as long as we could push it.”
Bellefonte won the battle for physicality, overpowering Tyrone with 222 rushing yards over the final two quarters. On the other side of the ball, the Raiders blasted Tyrone’s own running attack, which was fairly successful in the first half, limiting the Eagles to 17 rushing yards on 11 attempts in the second and third quarters.
For the exuberant Manning, who took over a dying Bellefonte program and 2013 and turned it into a District champion by 2017, winning battles of toughness have become the new normal in the Centre County Seat.
“It’s something we stress. It was the one thing when I started here at Bellefonte four or five years ago … I didn’t think there was a physicality about the program,” Manning said. “The thing we wanted to change, we wanted to be well-conditioned, and we wanted to be extraordinarily physical. Win, lose or draw, we wanted you to walk off the field and say ‘I’m glad we play them once a year.'”
Bellefonte’s physical nature and conditioning were apparent in the fourth quarter. After Myers’ touchdown pass put the Raiders ahead for the first time, Bellefonte took a short field and used five running plays to go 52 yards for another score. CJ Funk, a bruising 200-pound junior, got it going with a 28-yard run to the 23, and three plays later Myers scored from the 3 to make it 28-14.
“The kids go through some grilling throughout the week,” Manning said of his team’s conditioning. “There’s a conditioning aspect to it, but we only condition on Mondays. The rest of the week (conditioning) is based off nothing but the frequency of our practices. We are drilling here, and we are drilling there, and it is from here to there as fast as you can transition. So the ebb and flow of our practice never stops. There’s a non-stop factor about it, and when there’s heat, we’re not inside, we’re in the heat. When it’s rain, we’re not inside, we’re in the rain.”
What Manning has developed is a team built on toughness, and it showed against Tyrone as the game wore on. Funk was a big part of it, rambling for 133 of his 183 yards in the second half, including a game-changing 61-yard score to tie the game on the first play of the third quarter.
“We played a really good game in the first half, and in the second half they were a lot more physical than us,” said Tyrone coach Jason Wilson. “They got the long run to set the tone for the second half, but their running game was chunking along at seven, eight yards a carry.”
In the first half, Tyrone limited the Raiders to 59 rushing yards and six first downs while building a 14-7 lead. The Eagles were getting into Bellefonte’s backfield, dropping six plays for negative yardage, and moving the ball at will on the ground.
Zac Albright had 33 yards on three straight runs to set up Tyrone’s first score in the opening quarter, a 10-yard laser from Denver Light to Tommy Hicks, who made a one-handed stab to corral the ball in the end zone and make it 7-0.
Bellefonte answered with a long pass from Myers to Tae Bauman to tie it in the second before Albright went off tackle and burst through the secondary on a 38-yard run with 5:41 left in the half to make it 14-7.
“We didn’t jump on the kids at the half. We made some small adjustments that needed to be made,” said Manning. “There’s no magic snake oil for football. When kids really want to come out and win the game when you’re in reach of a team, you should do it.”
- In a game with stakes as high as they will get for any Mountain League game this season, players grew chippy in the fourth quarter as the game neared its end. Tyrone was flagged twice for personal fouls in the final quarter, while Bellefonte was hit with three personal fouls and an unsportsmanlike conduct call. It was part of a 9-penalty, 85-yard game for Tyrone, hearkening back to Wilson’s keys in which he emphasized the importance of not giving the Raiders’ offense easy yards. The Eagles led at the half after committing just three penalties in the first two quarters, all of which were 5-yard procedure penalties.
- Funk, who now has 699 yards and 10 touchdowns, may well be the top running back in the Mountain League. He’s big at 6-foot with breakaway speed, as shown on his 61-yard run at the start of the second half. But he is also a pure downhill runner who will lower the boom on would-be tacklers. Funk seeks out contact and initiates it with authority. If there’s a better one in the conference, Tyrone hasn’t played him yet.
- Hicks, while taking a personal foul penalty in the fourth quarter, continued to show his value as an offensive weapon. Along with his touchdown reception, he finished with 49 receiving yards, 13 rushing yards, and he had several long kickoff returns.
- Tyrone has been here before: strong stretches of football followed by a tough loss that sends the team into a tailspin. That story played out in one form or another the last two seasons, but Wilson feels his team can avoid that this season, and his senior leadership is one of the seasons why. “This is a good senior class. This was a good test to see where we are right now, but at the same time we know where we can get. We’re a pretty good football team if we can put four quarters together,” Wilson said.
BELLEFONTE 31, TYRONE 14
TYRONE 7 7 0 0 – 14
BELLEFONTE 0 7 7 17 – 31
T – Hicks 10 pass from Light (Raabe kick) 5:41
B – Bauman 24 pass from Myers (Persico kick) 11:48
T – Albright 38 run (Raabe kick)
B – Funk 61 run (Persico kick) 11: 41
B – Badger 12 pass from Myers (Persico kick) 10:08
B – Myers 3 run (Persico kick) 7:11
B – Persico 25 FG 1:51
First Downs 15 18
Yards Rushing 118 281
Pass Att.-Comp. 14-32 7-13
Yards Passing 126 59
Total Yards 244 340
Intercepted by 0 1
Fumbles/recovered 0-0 2-0
Penalties/yards 9-85 5-50
Punts/avg. 7-37.2 4-33
Tyrone – Albright 20-98; Light 4-7; Hicks 2-13.
Bellefonte – Funk 17-183; Myers 20-60; Lehman 6-30; Dann 1-4; Emel 1-(-4); Grey 1-9; Bauman 1-(-6); Capparella 1-5.
Tyrone – Light 12-29-102, 1 TD, 0 Int.; Lucas 2-3-24, 0 TD, 1 Int.
Bellefonte – Myers 7-13-59, 2 TD, 0 Int.
Tyrone – Hicks 5-49; Gripp 1-9; Reader 1-9; Lehman 2-30; 14 1-10; Homan 2-7; Albright 2-12.
Bellefonte – Badger 2-21; Bauman 5-42.