For Tyrone fans leaving Penns Valley Athletic Field last night, it was probably a little strange to see the entire Rams football team head straight from the handshake line to the scoreboard in the east end zone.
There would have been no reason to know that hanging on one of the poles that lifts the scoreboard is a black bell, and after victories each player gets to ring it.
That may be a little known fact in the world of Central Pennsylvania football, but it would have been an utter mystery to anyone from Tyrone because the Rams had never beaten Tyrone – period – let alone at home.
Until last night.
The Rams found a way to overcome one of the more inspired defensive game plans Tyrone had formulated in the last three seasons to down the Golden Eagles 13-7, bumping their record to 6-3 and earning the right to pull the string on the victory bell.
The win snapped a 17-game losing streak against Tyrone, which dated back to 1993, and it was sweet vindication for Coach Marty Tobias, who was the Rams’ sideline boss for every one of the losses.
“It’s really a big win because of the mystique of Tyrone. So often in the past our kids were beaten before they got off the bus or before they got to the school (against Tyrone),” he said. “It was a different vibe this year. They were determined to come out and give it their best. Credit Tyrone. They’re a great team and a great program. We were fortunate to come out with the win.”
Fortunate is a strong assessment considering the Rams were averaging more than 37 points and 410 yards per game before Friday night. It’s also fairly accurate because for most of the fourth quarter Valley looked like a team that wasn’t sure how to close out the biggest bugaboo on its schedule.
Up 13-7, the Rams fumbled the ball away twice in the final 10 minutes, and watched the Golden Eagles advance inside the 20 after each turnover. But the Rams’ defense, which had been yielding 28 points per game, was up to the task on each occasion.
“We had plenty of opportunities that we need to take care of, and we need to put the ball in the end zone,” said Tyrone coach Jason Wilson. “The whole second half was played on their side of the field, and we came away with zero points.”
Valley’s first giveaway came after the Rams defense held Tyrone on fourth-and-inches from the 38, stuffing quarterback Brandon Lucas for a 2-yard loss on a run up the middle from the shotgun formation. Ryan Ripka, who had just given the Rams the lead with a 1-yard run two minutes earlier, was stripped at the Tyrone 49, and Matt Clifton recovered.
Lucas sprung a 33-yard run to get the ball to the 14, but on fourth-and-9 he was intercepted by Logan Snyder at the 5.
On Valley’s ensuing series, Tobias fumbled and Denver Light recovered, allowing the Eagles to set up shop at the Rams’ 25. Light, who started the game at quarterback but came out after just one play, returned as the signal-caller and completed a 13-yard screen pass to Zac Albright to get as far as the 9, but on third down Snyder again sniffed out the pass play, this time coming away with an interception at the goal line.
“The kids executed when they needed to,” said Tobias. “They never hung their heads, and they stayed positive through it all. A couple of things happened that could have gone the other way, but we bounced back. I’m really proud of the effort.”
The loss continued what has been a frustrating five-game losing streak for the Golden Eagles, one in which they have been limited to seven or fewer points three times.
“We shot ourselves in the foot again with penalties,” said Wilson, whose team was flagged eight times for 75 yards. “We’ve got to clean those up. We’ve got to take advantage of opportunities. The second half was played on their side of the field. We just never executed.”
Tyrone jumped to an early lead, scoring on its first possession for the third straight game. It was a 57-yard drive set in motion by a 28-yard pass from Lucas to Damon Gripp and capped by a 1-yard run for the score by Albright. Andrew Pearson’s PAT with 9:27 left in the first quarter gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
It was an edge that held up the entire first half even though Tyrone would move the chains only two more times. That’s because the Eagles’ defense stymied Valley at every turn, even while working on a short field most of the time.
Tommy Hicks turned away one drive into Tyrone territory with an interception at the 32, and Zac Albright later shot down a march that had reached the 29 with a pick at the 10.
On the first play of the second quarter, Valley was facing fourth-and-5 from the 17 when Albright made a tough open-field tackle on Snyder for a three-yard gain to take over on downs. Later, the Rams moved as far as Tyrone’s 8 before pressure from Aric Reader and Braeden Nevling-Ray forced Tobias into an errant throw.
Eventually, losing the battle of field position stung the Eagles when the Rams took over at the Tyrone 35 with 4:31 left until halftime. The Rams needed nine plays to cover the distance, but they got on the board when Aaron Tobias stretched out with the ball to score from the 1 with 56 seconds left. Gage Ripka’s PAT tied it.
“Field position was definitely a big key,” said Coach Tobias. “But don’t underestimate what Tyrone’s got. For them to come out and play us the way they did defensively, it wasn’t a case that we weren’t executing. They were taking away what we were trying to do. They had a great defensive game plan, and the couple of times we did have a chance, we missed.”
Now 4-5, Tyrone is clinging to the fourth and final spot in the upcoming District 6 3A playoffs, which begin in two weeks. The Eagles conclude the season next week at home against Huntingdon, which is currently seventh, and they’re now in a spot where they may need a win to get in.
“We knew going into this Penns Valley would be a tough team,” said Wilson. “And we knew their offense was efficient, so it was going to be a difficult team to stop.”
- Aaron Tobias finished completing 21 of 30 passes for 189 yards, about 100 below his average. One reason was because Tyrone’s defensive backs were able to sniff out and cut down many of his short, quick passes just beyond the line of scrimmage. They also kept the Rams from completing deep passes. Tobias had only two completions longer than 20 yards, and they were both catch-and-run plays.
“We didn’t give up any of the deep plays,” said Wilson. “They’ve hit a lot of deep balls this year. The other thing their short throws that turn into big gains, and I thought for the most part we covered them pretty well.”
- Light played every snap at linebacker, but Wilson said an injury made him a game time decision as an offensive player.
“He’s been bothered by an injury, so we were trying to get past this one without him just to try to keep him healthy,” said Wilson. “Brandon has been good all year. Denver just didn’t get much practice this week. We made the choice to go ahead with Brandon just to reduce his amount of playing time.”
- Tyrone has been tied at halftime each of the last two weeks, and trailed unbeaten Clearfield 13-7 with two minutes to go in the first half in week 7. But in the last five games, the Eagles have scored just one second-half touchdown.
PENNS VALLEY 13, TYRONE 7
TYRONE 7 0 0 0 – 7
PENNS VALLEY 0 7 6 0 – 13
T – Albright 1 run (Pearson kick) 9:27
P – Tobias 1 run :56
P – Ripka 1 run (PAT failed) :33.4
First Downs 9 18
Yards Rushing 86 101
Pass Att./Comp. 11-22 21-30
Yards Passing 122 189
TOTAL OFFENSE 208 290
Fumbles/Rec. 0-0 2-2
Intercepted by 2 2
Punts/Avg. 6-30.3 3-24.3
Penalties/Yards 8-75 3-30
Tyrone – Albright – 20-56; Lucas 7-33; Reader 1-(-3).
Penns Valley – Ripka 27-76; Tobias 5-23; Baney 1-6; TEAM 2-(-4).
Tyrone – Lucas 10-19-109, 0 TD, 1 Int.; Light 1-3-13, 0 TD, 1 Int.
Penns Valley – Tobias 21-20-189, 0 TD, 2 Int.
Tyrone – Gripp 4-46; Lehman 2-29; Hicks 2-20; Albright 2-19; Reader 1-8.
Penns Valley – Snyder 9-98; Ripka 2-26; Fisher 4-24; Breon 3-6; Lieb 3-35.