When you look at the numbers from Tyrone’s game Friday against Bellefonte – a 31-14 loss on the road to drop the Eagles from the ranks of the unbeaten – you might think it was some kind of blowout.
Sure it was a deficit of more than two scores, and the Raiders gained 340 yards to Tyrone’s 244, but the teams may be closer than a quick look at the box score might suggest.
Before Bellefonte pulled away in the fourth quarter, it was a 14-14 game and Tyrone was doing significant damage in the Raiders’ backfield. The Eagles had accumulated nine tackles for loss, including four sacks by Braeden Nevling-Ray, and shut down the running efforts of quarterback Kyle Myers.
But Bellefonte owned the fourth quarter. In it, the Raiders registered 118 of their yards and scored 17 points, scoring on every possession. If you go back two plays before the fourth quarter, the yard total goes up more with a 29-yard run by Myers that got the Raiders out of a third-and-16 pinch and set up the go-ahead touchdown.
And there began one of the real turning points in the game: Myers’ ability to get loose over the last 13 minutes. Myers finished his night with 60 yards rushing on 20 carries, but he was working in negative numbers until his long run at the end of the third. From there he ran for 61 yards, scored a touchdown, and threw for another. Tyrone had no answer.
Tyrone’s defense did wear down in the fourth quarter, but there was also the aspect of Myers turning it up a notch and taking his game to a different level in crunch time.
Keagan Raabe, whom Tyrone coach Jason Wilson said would be done for the season two weeks ago after tearing his ACL in a blowout win over Bishop Carroll, was dressed and back in action last night.
The junior kicker, while wearing a brace on his left knee, came on to kick two extra-points.
Raabe did not handle kickoff duties; that responsibility went to another member of the soccer team, Andrew Pearson, who sent most of his kicks inside the 15-yard line in his first varsity action.
Part of Tyrone’s late decline against the Raiders can also be attributed to some untimely penalties that helped widen the gap and make any kind of comeback unmanageable.
Down 21-14 with under 10 minutes to play in the game, the Eagles were looking at second-and-2 from their 45 before being flagged for a personal foul on a hit after the whistle and moving back to their own 30. On third down of the same series they were called for holding, moving them back to the 20.
By the time Aric Reader lifted a 32-yard punt on fourth down, it gave the Raiders the ball on their own 48, and it took them only five plays to score and make it 28-14 with 7:11 left.
Tyrone took one other personal foul in the fourth quarter, and was flagged nine times for 85 yards.
The game in general became much more chippy as Bellefonte extended its lead late – the Raiders were penalized twice for personal fouls and once for unsportsmanlike conduct – but penalties have been an area of concern for the Golden Eagles this year. They’ve been ticketed 35 times for 284 yards, which amounts to almost 57 yards in penalties per game.
Tyrone hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2015, when Gary Weaver went for 1,518 yards, and the absence of one has been somewhat striking over the last two seasons.
Weaver was injured early in 2016 and played only one game after Week 3 before undergoing knee surgery, and Brandon Loose came close twice in 2016 (846) and 2017 (961), but never hit the mark.
The Golden Eagles had had a thousand-yard rusher every year since 2003 up until 2016.
Senior Zac Albright could be on his way to becoming the next one. Against Bellefonte he had 98 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and he’s stayed right around that 100-yard mark every game this season. His biggest game was a 200-yarder in Week 2 against Central, but otherwise he’s been consistent right around triple digits.
Albright has 595 yards after five weeks, so he’s ahead of the pace, but he’s also got the stiffest tests of the season still to come, including a road game against undefeated Bald Eagle Area Friday, followed by a game against 5-0 Clearfield.