FOUR DOWNS: Backyard Brawl

Tyrone fell to Bellwood-Antis 33-13 last Friday at Memorial Stadium in the Backyard Brawl. While the defense kept the Golden Eagles in the game for the better part of the first half, ultimately Tyrone did not have the offensive firepower to match the Blue Devils, who this season boast one of the top offensive lines in school history.

Here are four takeaways from the game.

  • THE OFFENSIVE LINE NEEDS SOME WORK

The number one concern for Coach John Franco heading into the game was the Eagles’ offensive line, which returned only Dylon Brower from last season. Without question, that was Tyrone’s Achilles Heel against the Devils, who sacked quarterback Keegan Gwinn 3 times and limited Tyrone to just 53 yards on the ground.

Tyrone had only one sustained drive in the first half and never moved the ball with consistency on the ground until the third quarter.

Coach John Franco is hoping the line will be bolstered this week against Juniata Valley with the return of Braden Ewing to full practice. Franco had projected the sophomore as one of the team’s top linemen in the preseason, but he was injured during camp and missed more than a week of practice. Though he returned for the B-A game, he did so on limited practice reps.

Franco said the line will see some shifting of players this week as the team attempts to lock each player into a set position. That in itself will be a boost not only for this season but for the future, as well. The Golden Eagles’ line is made up completely of underclassmen.

  • RUNNING POTENTIAL

It’s been a while since Tyrone has had a back with numbers that pop off the page.

There’s no question there have been some good ones in the last five years. Brandon Loose ran for more than 800 yards in 2016 before gaining 961 as a senior. Zac Albright had 957 rushing yards in 2018.

But there’s no getting around the fact that Tyrone’s last 1,000-yard rusher was Gary Weaver in 2015. That’s a span of more than five years, during that same time the Eagles have had passers post four,1000-yard campaigns.

The top candidate to help Tyrone break that trend if sophomore Brady Ronan, and Franco thinks he has something special in the tall and lanky rusher.

“He has a great feel for it, and you don’t teach that. You either have it or you don’t,” said Franco. “He has a great knack for finding the open crease. I thought he really showed flashes of the potential he has, and you’re going to see more of him.”

Ronan had 39 yards on 6 carries against Bellwood-Antis, including runs of 12 and 14 yards on the lone scoring march for Tyrone’s first sting. He did not enter the game at running back until the third quater.

  • THREE IN A ROW

Tyrone’s loss to the Devils made it three Backyard Brawl wins in a row for B-A, a feat the team had not accomplished since winning eight straight from 1987 through 1994.

Bellwood-Antis did earn three straight regular season wins over Tyrone from 2000 through 2002, but that streak was interrupted in 2000 when the Eagles defeated B-A in the District 6 2A championship game.

The 33 points B-A scored were the most for the Devils against Tyrone in more than a decade. Bellwood-Antis won 31-19 in 2009, led by running back Zac McCaulley and quarterback Nate Plummer.

The most points B-A has ever scored in the Backyard Brawl is 39 in 1953. The Devils followed that up with 36 the next season. Bellwood-Antis scored 35 in 1991 and 34 in 1992.

  • FRESH NEW START

Freshman Ashton Walk led the offense for Tyrone in the fourth quarter against B-A, and despite his youth and inexperience he looked unflappable.

Walk led the team on a 63-yard scoring march in the fourth quarter and twice authored fourth-down conversion passes to keep the sticks moving.

He finished completing 4 of 8 passes for 63 yards.

Franco said Walk will play a part in the game plan this week, though not as a passer. Walk will play safety when the Eagles employ their nickel package to help defend against the deep pass.

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