Tyrone fell to Penns Valley 13-7 on Friday, dropping to 4-5 after opening the season with four consecutive wins. It was the Golden Eagles’ first loss to Valley in 18 games dating back to 1993.
Here are the takeaways from the game.
For the third straight game Tyrone scored on its first offensive series. And for the third straight game, the offense flatlined afterwards.
The Golden Eagles were beneficiaries of excellent field position on their first series against Valley, taking over at their own 43. It took only five plays, with a mix of pass and run, to hit pay dirt on a 1-yard run by Zac Albright.
But like the three games that preceded it, there wasn’t much to speak of afterwards. The Golden Eagles would get 11 more possessions, and four of them ended in four or fewer plays.
That has been the trend for Tyrone over the last three games.
Against Clearfield in Week 7 Tyrone received the opening kick and moved 64 yards for the game’s first score. They followed it up with an 8-play drive that was derailed when a snap from center went high over the head of Denver Light, and then had five drives that lasted no more than three offensive plays.
In Week 8 against Hollidaysburg, the Golden Eagles marched 75 yards for a score on their first possession, and then had seven series of four plays or fewer.
The initial game plan has been spot-on, but the adjustment to the adjustment has not. Clearfield coach Tim Janocko said his team found a way to make adjustments in the secondary to limit the effectiveness of Tyrone’s medium-range passing game. Tiger coach Homer DeLattre said his team had to adjust to Albright bouncing runs to the outside of containment on defense.
With one game left to seal a position in the District 6 3A playoffs, adjustments are now more crucial than ever. It’s Week 10, and the book is out on everyone, so Friday against Huntingdon Tyrone’s response to the moves Huntingdon makes could well determine the Eagles’ playoff fate.
Tyrone’s defense has done all it could to ignite the offense over the last two games, coming up with nine takeaways.
Only one of them has yielded points.
Against Valley the Eagles had two takeaways near the 50 or inside of Rams territory, and they came away empty-handed each time.
While the defense has had its issues this season, giving up 300 yards four weeks in a row from Week 5 through 8, it has been very good at causing turnovers. The Eagles have 21 on the season, 12 by way of interception, a number more impressive after teams decided to shy away from passes in the direction of cornerback Damon Gripp, who has six picks.
In basketball, the transition game often dictates the pace and tempo of a contest, and when a team can’t catch up, it’s curtains. The dynamic is much different in football, but big plays to follow up turnovers are one way to grab momentum.
That’s not happening for Tyrone, who against Valley followed two first-quarter interceptions with three-and-out series.
About 15 years ago the trendy high school offense was the wing-T, shifting away from the I and power-I systems that were popular int he 1990s.
Now it’s the spread, a look that allows teams to isolate athletic skill players and make gains from short, easy passing routes.
But if one thing has remained the same, even as quarterbacks throw more than ever and pile up passing numbers week by week, it’s the importance of running the football.
Against Penns Valley, a team that slings the ball around more than anyone in the Mountain League, Tyrone lost the rushing battle for the fifth straight week. While the Rams managed only 101 yards, Tyrone could muster only 86, continuing a trend that began when Bellefonte totaled 281 yards to the Golden Eagles’ 118.
It was the third time in that span that the Eagles were held below 100 yards, a period marked by a low of just 7 against Bald Eagle Area.
Tyrone will face a Huntingdon team this week that struggles to run the ball almost as much as the Golden Eagles themselves, averaging 136 yards per game.
With Tyrone’s defense beginning to find its legs, and with the Golden Eagles’ quarterback position in apparent flux – Denver Light took just four snaps against the Rams – winning the running game will be the emphasis against the ‘Cats.
There’s plenty on the table for Tyrone in Week 10. Clearly, it begins with getting a win to get in.
After the ‘Cats mauled Central last week, winning 52-18 (their second 50-plus output in a row), Huntingdon could leapfrog the Golden Eagles for the final 3A spot with a victory.
Tyrone has gone to the postseason every year since 1995, and run of 23 straight seasons, and that’s in serious jeopardy.
There’s also the looming threat of another sub-.500 season. Tyrone finished 5-6 in 2016, followed up by a 3-8 campaign in 2017.
The Golden Eagles have not had three straight sub-.500 seasons since finishing under the mark four years in a row from 1989 through 1992. Those were the dark days of the Tyrone football program, but a loss Friday would complete a 4-6 season.
Individually, Albright still has a 1,000-yard season within reach, with 817 yards on 166 carries. He could reach the mark with a solid game, and he does have a 200-yard game to his credit this season. Albright would also be helped in his pursuit with a victory, which would give him one more game at least.
Light is 211 yards away from tying Leonard Wilson for second place on Tyrone’s career passing yards list at 3,482, and he needs just 105 yards to become the eighth player in school history to accumulate 4,000 total yards.