There was a time when the powers that be in the Tyrone Area School District were pushing for the Tyrone football team to join the Inter-County Conference.
The ICC has always been a small-school league, but in the early days of the career of Coach John Franco in 1994 the Golden Eagles were finding little success against schools in the Big 8, which then was essentially a 3A league.
After one trip through the conference schedule, Franco had other ideas, certain Tyrone could not only compete but win against the bigger teams in Central Pennsylvania.
It’s memories like those, from the days when Franco and the Eagles would go out in search of mountains to climb just because they were there, that made Tyrone’s loss to Juniata Valley on Friday rather disheartening.
It was not only the Eagles’ second straight loss, but it was their second straight loss to a team from the ICC, and the 32-13 final was almost identical to the 33-13 drubbing they took at the hands of Bellwood-Antis one week ago.
It’s true that in the Blue Devils and Hornets Tyrone was facing not your average, run-of-the-mill ICC team. Juniata Valley and B-A are the gold standard of the league, two teams who have aspirations well beyond games against Moshannon Valley or Glendale. At the same time, the distance between Tyrone and its first two opponents was great enough that it had Franco soul searching in the aftermath.
“I am not doing my job. I have not yet figured out how to get this team to compete better than it is,” said Franco, whose team fell to 0-2 with a pair of losses to teams from the ICC. “Our kids work hard at practice. We just have played poorly. It has not just been one play here or there. We’ve played poorly two weeks in a row, and that’s on me.”
That’s about as frustrated as Franco has been since he returned to Tyrone in 2019. And it’s understandable considering the methodical manner in which the Hornets took down the Golden Eagles. Consider this:
- Juniata Valley ran off 60 plays to Tyrone’s 32, producing 311 yards in total offense.
- The Hornets had 20 first downs to the Eagles’ five, and Tyrone’s initial first down didn’t come until the third quarter. The other four came on their final drive.
- Tyrone’s longest running play went for 7 yards, and the team finished with only 33 yards on the ground.
- The Eagles’ defense allowed conversion for touchdowns or first downs on third and fourth down 8 times.
Taken altogether, it amounted to a frustrating night for Tyrone.
Perhaps no exchange better captured the complexion of the game than the one in the third quarter after the Eagles had gotten back within two touchdowns with their first score of the game. Kolten Miller fielded a Valley kickoff at his 12 before breaking containment down the sideline for an 88-yard touchdown that made it 19-6, and there was life on the Tyrone sidelines and in the stands at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field.
But it didn’t last long as Valley answered with a 67-yard drive using only running plays to sap the life out of the Golden Eagles. After the Hornets reached midfield, Bo Hoover broke a run for 23 yards to the 28, after which quarterback Lambert Palmer shook free for 18 yards to the 10. Palmer would finish the drive with a 5-yard run to make it 26-6 with 2:55 left in the third quarter.
Palmer was the perfect compliment to running back Jayce Rand, who carried 29 times for 132 yards and scored three touchdowns, two of which came in the first half to stake the Hornets to a 13-0 lead. After Tyrone began keying on runs to Rand in the third quarter, Valley began using Palmer on misdirection running plays off of fakes, and it worked to perfection. Palmer finished with 117 yards on 13 carries, 98 of which came in the third and fourth quarters.
Tyrone has now surrendered 507 yards on the ground through its first two games, emphasizing a point Franco made clear in the preseason: the guys up front have potential, but with only a few exceptions they are all playing their first varsity reps, and their development is going to take some time.
That’s one of the reasons Franco has said those teams that are going to take down the Eagles will need to do it early. He believes the line has a lot of potential on both sides of the ball, and confidence in the team’s skill players hasn’t wavered.
Still, it was hard to put that into perspective in the wake of a second-straight lopsided defeat.
Palmer made a lot of them, and it started on Valley’s first series, when he threw to passes to convert third downs during a 65-yard scoring drive. On the Hornets’ next scoring march in the second quarter, he threw a 7-yard pass to convert on third-and-6 and a 15-yard completion on fourth-and-9.
Though Palmer did it all, the steady Rand never blinked after he was stopped eight times for zero or negative yards. After carrying the ball 15 times in the first half, he toted it 14 more times in the third and fourth quarters.
Freshman Ashton Walk got his first extended playing time as the deep safety on defense, and when he was inserted in the fourth quarter at quarterback he led Tyrone on a scoring drive for the second straight week. The advance went 68 yards, and on it Walk completed 3 of 5 passes for 46 yards. He also threw the first touchdown pass of his career on a 9-yard strike to Colton Veres.
Franco unveiled a wildcat offense for the first time this season, using wide receiver Ross Gampe in shotgun formation. Gampe completed 1 of 4 passes for 23 yards and ran for 2 yards on 3 carries.
Tyrone opens its Mountain League schedule next week on the road at Bellefonte. The Red Raiders are 1-1 after defeating Philipsburg-Osceola 22-6.
JUNIATA VALLEY 32, TYRONE 13
SCORE BY QUARTERS
JUNIATA VALLEY 7 6 12 7 – 32
TYRONE 0 0 6 7 – 13
J – Rand 13 run (Allison kick) 6:27
J – Rand 10 run (PAT blocked) 3:08
J – Rand 9 run (PAT failed) 6:41
T – Miller 88 kick return (PAT blocked) 6:26
J – Palmer 5 run (PAT run failed) 2:55
J – Hoover 12 run (Allison kick) 6:58
T – Veres 9 pass from Walk (Gwinn kick) 1:34
First Downs 5 20
Yards Rushing 16-33 54-311
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int. 6-16-2 6-10-0
Yards Passing 73 56
TOTAL OFFENSE 106 367
Fumbles/Lost 2-0 0-0
Punts/Avg. 5-28.8 3-33.3
Penalties/Yards 3-15 4-30
TYRONE – LeGars 1-3; Ronan 3-10; Beck 3-0; Gampe 3-2; Gwinn 2-6; Miller 4-12.
JUNIATA VALLEY – Rand 29-132; Palmer 13-117; Hoover 4-55; Johnson 1-16; Allison 1-8; Miller 2-4; TEAM 4-(-21).
TYRONE – Gwinn 2-7-4, 0 TD, 2 Int.; Gampe 1-4-23; Walk 3-5-46, 1 TD, 0 Int.
JUNIATA VALLEY – Palmer 6-10-56, 0 TD, 0 Int.
TYRONE – LeGars 1-4; Rhoades 2-23; Balldauf 1-8; Veres 2-38.
JUNIATA VALLEY – Hoover 3-26; Johnson 2-22; Miller 1-8.