The Tyrone Golden Eagles lost on the final play from scrimmage for the second straight game Friday at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field, falling to Central on a controversial goal line call, 12-7. The loss dropped the Eagles to 0-2. Here are four takeaways from the game.
FIRST DOWN: Tyrone’s offense took an expected dip in production after producing 360 yards against Bellwood-Antis in the season-opener. It was a drop not expected before the game, but one that seemed eminent after the Eagles lost two starting skill players within the first five minutes of the game.
Top receiver Damon Gripp, who had 100 yards receiving against the Devils, left the game after suffering an ankle sprain on the first play, while starting running back Tommy Hicks, who had 73 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, sustained a broken leg while punting on Tyrone’s first possession.
As a result, the Golden Eagles generated just 134 yards on offense, with the losses felt particularly hard in the passing game. Without the deep threat provided by Gripp, Brandon Lucas would complete just 4 of 10 passes for 41 yards.
Lucas, fullback Noah Zimmerman, and backup Cory Beck have proven they can run the football, so that may be the area where the injuries are easiest to absorb.
In the passing game, senior Brandon Homan may become the primary target until Gripp gets healthy.
SECOND DOWN: Penalties continued to plague Tyrone at the worst times against the Dragons.
In general, the penalty situation has been much better in Franco’s first year than it was in the last two. Tyrone has committed five penalties in each of their first two games, and few of them have been big yardage miscues.
However, the timing of the penalties could not have been worse. After the Eagles had driven to the Dragons’ 1 in the second quarter, a false start penalty moved the ball back to the 6, forcing a field goal Keegan Raabe would barely miss. Later, on Central’s game-winning drive, Tyrone handed the Dragons an extra 15 yards with a personal foul penalty on a tackle out of bounds.
Similarly, against B-A, Tyrone went four quarters committing just three penalties, but in overtime a false start on offense followed by a pass interference call on defense paved the way for the Devils’ win.
THIRD DOWN: The Golden Eagles’ defense handled the loss of Gripp, Hicks and defensive back Lavi Blazer, who was injured on the opening kickoff, much better than their offense.
Tyrone allowed the Dragons only 220 yards, and the bulk of them came on Central’s first series, which went for 55 yards (aided by a 30-yard pass completion on the play Gripp was injured) and the last series, which went 66 yards.
Equally big, the defense continued to make plays to get its offense on the field, forcing two turnovers.
Tyrone now has five takeaways this season.
FOURTH DOWN: An 0-2 start at Tyrone is rare for Franco, but the Eagles winless start through the first two weeks is not completely unprecedented.
Tyrone was 0-2 twice during Franco’s previous tenure from 1994-2011, and each time the team rebounded to make the postseason.
In 2001 the Eagles opened with losses to Bellwood-Antis and Huntingdon but recovered to finish 5-5 after suffering a narrow loss to Forest Hills in the first round of the District 6 2A playoffs.
The same two teams dropped Tyrone the next season before Tyrone won 7 of its next 8 games before losing again to Forest in the playoffs, this time in the semifinals.
The road is a bit harder for Tyrone this season as there are far fewer low-level conference opponents as there were in 2001 and 2002. Bellefonte has beaten Tyrone three straight seasons, while both Bald Eagle Area and Penns Valley beat the Eagles last season and return strong teams.
With only four teams qualifying for the postseason from 3A, it will be an intense October for Tyrone.