Three years ago, in a game against a battered Tyrone team that had run out of offensive options following a series of injuries, Bellefonte toppled Tyrone 14-13 at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field.
It was significant for many reasons. For one, it was the Raiders’ first win over Tyrone since 1992.
But perhaps more important in the aftermath was the fact that the loss began to chip away at the perception of the Tyrone mystique. Before that game, the Eagles had lost to one of the four Centre County schools on their schedule just one time in 22 seasons. Since then it has happened four times.
Before then Tyrone had not finished a season under .500 since 1992. The Eagles have not finished above .500 since that season.
It’s doubtful that high school boys playing in the moment would view a singular game through that lens, but one thing is for sure: playing against Philipsburg-Osceola at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field last night, there is no way the current Golden Eagles wanted to make history in similar fashion.
Trying their best to halt a 43-game losing streak in Mountain League play, P-O played inspired football, charging to a nine-point lead at halftime, but in the end Tyrone was able to figure out the Mounties’ offense when it mattered most in a 22-16 victory that Coach John Franco said was emblematic of his team’s play through four games.
“These are good Tyrone kids. They don’t quit,” said Franco, whose team evened its record at 2-2 and improved to 2-1 in the Mountain League. “They keep coming back. We did it last week. We did it the week before. We did it against Bellwood. We’ve been down. We just keep coming back. Amazing.”
The victory was Tyrone’s second straight, raising the Eagles’ record to 2-2 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain League. In every game, Tyrone has found itself down, and in every game the Eagles have found a way to claw back, by hook or by crook.
“You figure things out when you have adversity like this, and it will make you better in the long run,” Franco said.
Against the Mounties, Tyrone was facing adversity from the word go, because P-O had a formula for moving the ball against the Golden Eagles not unlike Carroll, which amassed 367 yards the week before in Tyrone’s 28-20 win.
With junior quarterback Ryan Whitehead spearheading the offense, P-O controlled the tempo of the game in the first half, maxing the run and the pass effectively enough to churn out 225 of the Mounties’ 354 yards.
The result was a 16-7 lead that had Tyrone reeling by halftime.
“At halftime, we were all fired up,” said Tyrone quarterback Brandon Lucas. “We knew we needed to come out and make a stand, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Tyrone’s defense made three defensive stands throughout the course of the game that proved to be the difference, despite their troubles corralling Whitehead and his stable of backs and receivers.
The first came after Brandon Lucas had directed Tyrone’s offense for a third-quarter score that got the Eagles back into the game.
Starting at its own 40, Tyrone went 60 yards on six plays, including receptions of 15 and 10 yards by Damon Gripp, to score on a 3-yard run by Lucas at the 4:33 mark. The second of Keegan Raabe’s two PAT kicks pulled Tyrone to within 16-14.
Lucas completed 10 of 15 passes for 132 yards while running for 87 yards and three touchdowns.
“You could feel it. They had (momentum), and when they went down and scored and it was 16-14, you could just feel it,” said P-O coach Brian McGonigal, whose team fell to 1-3 overall and 0-3 in the league with its third consecutive loss. “We’re trying to keep the kids up and excited, but that’s on them as a team. They’ve got to learn from that and rally and say, next play, let’s go down and punch it in the end zone. We got it going there, but we had three drops that really hurt us.”
P-O responded with a drive that lasted into the fourth quarter and went as deep as Tyrone’s 13, but a delay of game penalty and two incompletions had the Mounties facing fourth-and-12 from the 18. Whitehead threw to Kaleb Stamm on the decisive play, but Matt Clifton was there to wrap him up for a 1-yard gain and end the advance.
Tyrone took over at its own 14 and began a five-play drive that saw Lucas carry twice for runs of 20 and 25 yards before completing a 24-yard pass to Gripp to the 12.
Lucas scored on the next play, and then threw to Gripp for the PAT with 8:11 left in the game.
“Big-game guys make big-game plays, and that’s Brandon Lucas, and that’s Damon Gripp,” said Franco.
There was plenty of time for P-O to make a move, but their drive looked to be thwarted when Clifton came free on a blitz to sack Whitehead for a 9-yard loss on third down to bring up fourth-and-18 from its own 49.
But Whitehead was able to find Hunter Weitoish behind the defense for a 41-yard gain to Tyrone’s 10 with under five minutes to play. An offsides penalty against Tyrone eventually set the ball at the 6 on fourth-and-goal before Lucas broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Aaron Depto.
“I just made a good read on the play,” said Lucas. “My teammates did a great job covering the corner. I saw that (Whitehead) was looking back my way, and I didn’t want to let the team down.”
Tyrone found itself down early after P-O, which had scored just 14 points in its last two games, punched it on its first series of the first quarter. The Mounties’ drive went 70 yards on nine plays with a mixture of runs and passes that had Tyrone on its heels. Stamm carried six times for 33 yards while Whitehead completed a pair of 17-yard passes before hooking up with Depto on a 3-yard scoring connection. After the try for two fell incomplete, the Mounties led 6-0.
Tyrone answered with a 10-play drive to take the lead, aided by a roughing the kicker penalty after the Eagles were forced to punt on fourth-and-18. Soon after Noah Zimmerman broke loose for 14 yards and Brandon Homan made a lunging grab of a pass from Lucas at the goal line. Lucas went in from there on the next play for a 7-6 lead.
“That catch down here (by Homan), man, we needed that bad,” said Franco. “What an effort by Brandon Homan. incredible. That at least stopped that early flow.”
But the Mounties came back with a nine-play drive that lasted into the second quarter, highlighted by back-to-back completions from Whitehead to Weitoish for 21 yards and Jeremy Whitehead for 36. Stamm, who finished with 129 yards on 30 carries, punctuated the march with a 4-yard run, and Aaron Parks’ PAT made it 13-7.
P-O made it a two-score game before halftime, but Tyrone’s defense minimized the damage with another red zone stand. Using an 18-yard run by Weitoish on a fake punt as the catalyst, the Mounties launched a 64-yard drive to Tyrone’s 3 before a procedure penalty on fourth down set the ball back to the 8, bringing in Parks for a 25-yard field goal and a 16-7 lead.
The stand foreshadowed the resolve of Tyrone’s defense in the second half, when it better limited the effectiveness of Stamm and Ryan Whitehead, who completed 15 of 22 passes for 198 yards. But only six of those completions came in the third and fourth quarter, and his last two attempts fell incomplete.
“We got a lot of push from our line in the first half,” said McGonigal. “I think we tired out a little bit in the second half.”
Tyrone now hosts Bellefonte on Friday.
TYRONE 22, PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA 16
Score by Quarters
TYRONE 7 0 8 7 – 22
PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA 6 10 0 0 – 16
P – Depto 3 pass from R. Whitehead (PAT pass failed) 7:57
T – Lucas 1 run (Raabe kick) 3:03
P – Stamm 4 run (Parks kick) 11:19
P – Parks 25 FG 4:33
T – Lucas 3 run 4:33 (Raabe kick)
T – Lucas 12 run (Lucas pass to Gripp) 8:11
First Downs 15 15
Att-Yards Rushing 31-146 35-156
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int 10-15-0 15-22-0
Passing Yards 132 198
Total Plays-Yards 41-278 50-354
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 3-15 7-68
Punts-Average 3-31 2-32
Tyrone — Lucas 20-87; Zimmerman 8-57; Beck 3-2.
Philipsburg-Osceola – Stamm 30-129; J. Whitehead 1-18; R. Whitehead 4-9.
Tyrone — Lucas 10-15-132, 0 TD, 0 Int.
Philipsburg-Osceola – R. Whitehead 15-22-198, 1 TD, 0 Int.
Tyrone — Gripp 8-98; Homan 2-34.
Philipsburg-Osceola – Stamm 3-22; J. Whitehead 3-50; Weitoish 3-62; Chapman 4-41; Depto 2-20.