The Tyrone Golden Eagles controlled the clock and the pace of play for most of its game Friday against Hollidaysburg.
But the Golden Tigers dictated momentum with three game-changing quick strikes that ultimately sent Tyrone to its fourth straight loss.
The tide changers came from all three phases of the game: a defensive touchdown, a long run off a broken tackle, and a blocked punt. They were more than enough to turn a 14-13 lead at halftime into a 41-13 route before a Homecoming crowd at Golden Tiger Stadium.
For a team like Tyrone, already thinned by injuries and attrition, it’s hard to recover from those kinds of plays, especially when the game plan was built on controlling the football and making the most of time-consuming drives.
When you go down by a pair of touchdowns less than four minutes into the second half, as Tyrone did, the game plan is out the window.
On the first play of the half Trent Paddock took a handoff off tackle to the left and was met head-on in the hole by Matt Clifton, Tyrone’s top tackler. But Clifton went high on the 6-foot-6 Paddock, who shook free of the hit and raced 59 yards for a touchdown. Ethan Pinter’s kick made it 21-13, and Franco could see the wind coming out of the sails of the Golden Eagles.
“You could just see every head go down,” Franco said. “We were so gunned up coming out at halftime. It’s right there, we have everybody in position, and we miss tackles. In the first half we didn’t miss tackles. It’s so frustrating. We’re playing better. We just have got to put it together and keep plugging away at it.”
Tyrone’s offense, which had generated 197 yards in the first half, gained only two yards after Paddock’s big run and was forced to punt. But Paddock was there again, this time to block Cameron Brandt’s kick from the 27. It was recovered by Vincent Franco at the 21, and three plays later Hunter Barr scooted in from the 4 to make it 28-13 with less than four minutes gone in the second half.
“Our offensive line played really well the first half,” said Franco. “They dominated our offensive line in the second half. Our offensive line has had problems all year. They’re very young. We have one senior on the offensive line. The good thing is they’re going to be back, and they’re learning this year.”
The big plays were crucial for a couple of reasons, according to Hollidaysburg coach Homer DeLattre, whose team improved evened its record at 4-4 with its second straight win after a buzz-saw stretch of four games against some of the top teams in Pennsylvania and Maryland. First, they put points on the board. More importantly, they negated the impact of Tyrone’s ball control, which was impressive in the first half, when the Tigers managed only 17 plays.
“(The fumble recovery) was the big play of the first half because we didn’t have the ball,” said DeLattre. “We had the ball once and we had 13 points. So that was a big play for us. We knew they were going to possess the ball. We talked a lot about the quarterback. He did a good job. That kid’s a really good football player.”
Tyrone quarterback Brandon Homan, along with trusty wide receiver Damon Gripp, gave the Tigers everything they could handle, and they were a big reason why the Eagles were within a point at halftime.
Tyrone’s offense generated 197 yards in the first half, with Lucas at the forefront as a runner and a passer. He continued to build on his performance from a week ago, when he produced 257 yards against the Clearfield, recording his second straight 100-yard rushing game with 112 yards on 24 carries. Lucas also completed 14 of 22 passes for 151 yards.
At one point in the first half Lucas had completed 11 of 13 passes, with one incompletion coming on a tipped-ball interception.
Gripp, meanwhile, continued to produce despite having coverage rolled to his side on most patters, grabbing 7 passes for 88 yards.
The Tigers narrowed their focus on Lucas in the second half, DeLattre said, and it paid dividends. Over the second and third quarters Hollidaysburg limited him to 24 yards on 7 carries and forced him into 3-for-9 passing with a second interception.
We talked nothing but, when we have the ball we have to maximize our possessions. We knew when they had the ball if they got a couple first downs they were going to burn five minutes off the clock.Hollidaysburg Coach Homer DeLattre
Tyrone started the game with the kind of drive DeLattre had anticipated. It went 79 yards in 12 plays, eating seven minutes off the clock. Tyrone converted once on third down on a run by Lucas and then on fourth-and-4 from the 10 when Lucas hit Clifton over the middle for an 8-yard gain to the 2. Lucas powered in from there, and while the PAT kick was blocked Tyrone had its first lead in four weeks.
Hollidaysburg answered quickly, with Bryce Martellacci scoring on a 3-yard run just five plays into the Tigers’ first possession. It was set up by a 40-yard run by Martellacci one play earlier. The first of five PAT kicks by Pinter made it 7-6 with 3:25 left in the first.
The teams exchanged interceptions before the Tigers grabbed the lead with a defensive score when Evan Brozenich snatched up a fumble by Brandon Homan and went down the sideline for a 54-yard touchdown to make it 14-6.
But Tyrone responded with a 10-play drive lasting almost five minutes to pull within a point. The big play came on a fourth-and-4 conversion when Broc Zimmerman went high to grab a pass on the sideline, barely keeping a toe in bounds on an 8-yard gain to keep the chains moving. An 18-yard run by Lucas and a 10-yard reception by Homan got the ball to the 5, setting up a 5-yard touchdown reception by Gripp. Keagan Raabe’s PAT made it 14-13 with 6:53 until halftime.
Tyrone had one more long drive before the end of the half, keeping the ball for 12 plays and four minutes. While it didn’t yield points, it kept the Tigers off the board, and that dynamic was becoming a concern for Hollidaysburg.
“(At halftime) We talked nothing but, when we have the ball we have to maximize our possessions,” said DeLattre. “We knew when they had the ball if they got a couple first downs they were going to burn five minutes off the clock, like they did on their first drive. I don’t know if we ran 20 plays in the first half.”
In the second half, the Tigers capatilized on their momentum-changing plays and then settled into a better rhythm behind Martellacci, who became the latest in a string of dual-threat quarterbacks to put up big numbers against Tyrone’s defense.
The Tigers closed the third with a six-play, 30-yard drive in which Martellacci carried twice for 17 yards and completed two passes, the second of which went to Paddock, who went 21 yards off a screen for a score after the Tigers were backed up on third-and-16.
The Tigers closed their scoring with a 38-yard run by Martellacci in the fourth quarter.
The junior signal-caller finished with 163 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, fronting a ground attack that produced 335 yards, averaging 9.85 yards per carry.
In all, Hollidaysburg netted 246 of its 415 yards in the second half.
“In the second half we executed a bit more and ran hard,” said DeLattre.
Now 2-6, Tyrone will host Penns Valley next week, while Hollidaysburg travels to DuBois.