It would be unfair to say the Tyrone football team solved all of its problems with its 21-0 victory over Bellefonte last night at Rogers Stadium. The Eagles are a young team still trying to find themselves, and the errors the seemed omnipresent in losses to Bellwood-Antis and Juniata Valley in Weeks 1 and 2 are sure to come into play again.
But it would be hard to say the Eagles didn’t begin finding the right pieces to the puzzle in their first shutout since September of 2019.
The running game, which was negligible in the first two games, came to life, and the Eagles just may have settled on a go-to back. Sophomore Brady Ronan cut on a dime and lowered the shoulder once or twice to became Tyrone’s first running back to gain 100 yards since October 9, 2020 (Quarterback Brandon Lucas ran for 100 yards twice last season). He gained 102 yards and scored twice on 22 carries, and he was tough late, getting 24 yards on 6 carries late as the Eagles were killing the clock.
The offensive line and the creases they were able to create played a major role in Ronan’s success, and the unit was also able to protect quarterback Keegan Gwinn much better than it did the first two weeks of the season, when the signal-caller was sacked four times and was sent scrambling most times he dropped back. The Raiders’ defense got to Gwinn only once, and in general the senior was able to pass with little duress on his 22 attempts.
But as much as the Eagles improved offensively, which was substantial – the first string had scored only twice in eight quarters – the play of the defense may have been more impactful. Tyrone forced three turnovers, setting up a pair of touchdowns, and dropped 10 plays behind the line of scrimmage. That’s three more than the unit had all season heading into last night. Four of those minus-plays ended in sacks, with senior Jake Johnson getting two of them.
The win allowed the Eagles to begin wiping away the taste of a rocky start to the season and open their Mountain League slate at 1-0, but where psychology is concerned it did even more than that. For the first time this year, Tyrone could feel good about itself and its effort. That’s an achievement that can’t be understated for a group that leans as heavily on juniors and sophomores as the Golden Eagles.
It was something Coach John Franco felt clearly when all was said and done.
“That was a great effort tonight,” said Franco. “We were really pleased with the effort, and we were pleased with the result.”
Tyrone’s first score came on the heels of a defensive stand after the Eagles regrouped following a 43-yard run by Bellefonte quarterback Nicholas Way on the Raiders’ first possession, which set up his team at the 13. The advance reached as far as the 7 before Way mishandled a shotgun snap on third down, setting up a 29-yard field goal attempt by Hayden Walker that hit the crossbar.
The Eagles got the ball at the 20 on the exchange and pieced together their longest and most productive drive of the season. It lasted 13 plays, and on it Tyrone converted twice on third down, with Gwinn hitting Ronan both times: once for 11 yards on third-and-9, and then for 9 yards on third-and-8.
Cortlynd Rhoades capped the drive when he slipped behind Bellefonte’s secondary to haul in a 37-yard pass from Gwinn for a touchdown with 2:32 left in the first quarter. Gwinn’s first of three PAT kicks made it 7-0.
It was a nice pick-me-up for Tyrone, but the defense wasn’t finished impacting the game with big plays. On the Raiders’ next play from scrimmage, sophomore Dravyn Crowell snagged an interception at the 40 and returned it 39 yards to the 1, setting up this score by Ronan just 14 seconds after the Rhoades touchdown.
That made it 14-0, and it stayed that way until the third quarter, when the Eagles converted another fumbled snap into points. Josh Patterson jumped on the loose change at the 22, and Tyrone used three straight runs by Ronan to cover the distance and grab a three-touchdown advantage.
On five second-half possession, the Raiders made it past Tyrone’s 48 only once, but their opportunity to avoid a second shutout this season ended with a pair of stops behind the line of scrimmage. Bellefonte had driven to the 9, but back-to-back minus tackles from Ross Gampe and Joel Howard Jr. closed the books on a defensive performance that saw Tyrone surrender only 185 yards.
The key on both of those plays was the penetration Tyrone’s defensive front was able to generate and how quickly it did it. By the second half, the group was winning the battle at the line of scrimmage and beating Bellefonte off the ball regularly, something that hadn’t happened in games against Bellwood-Antis and Juniata Valley.
That effort played a big role in containing Way, who ran for 100 yards on 19 carries, but who was limited to 14 yards on 7 tries in the second half.
The Raiders, who fell to 1-2 overall and 0-2 in the Mountain League, could never capitalize off their early success, and Coach Vaughn Donmoyer felt it came down to miscues, whether they were turnovers or penalties.
While it was a win that allowed Tyrone to feel good again, there will be little time to dwell on it. Next week, the Golden Eagles travel to Hyde Park to play 3-0 Clearfield, the preseason favorite to win the Mountain League. The Bisons solidified that claim last week with a 21-0 pasting of Bald Eagle Area, and last night defeated Penns Valley 53-7. Clearfield has surrendered only two touchdowns this season.
Bellefonte, meanwhile, will travel to the Blair County Seat to play Hollidaysburg, which fell to 0-2 last night with a 34-20 loss to State College.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
TYRONE 14 0 7 0 – 21
BELLEFONTE 0 0 0 0 – 0
T – Rhoades 37 pass from Gwinn (Gwinn kick) 2:35
T – Ronan 1 run (Gwinn kick) 2:21
T – Ronan 8 run (Gwinn kick) 5:33
First Downs 11 11
Yards Rushing 31-124 38-132
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int. 7-22-1 7-12-1
Yards Passing 102 53
TOTAL OFFENSE 226 185
Fumbles/Lost 2-1 3-2
Punts/Avg. 4-26.3 3-30
Penalties/Yards 6-47 4-30
TYRONE – Ronan 22-105; Beck 3-12; Gwinn 4-4; Miller 2-3.
BELLEFONTE – Way 19-100; Heckman 14-12; Lowry 4-18; Weaver 1-3; Team (-1).
TYRONE – Gwinn 7-22-102, 1 TD, 1 Int.
BELLEFONTE – Way 7-12-53, 0 TD, 1 Int.
TYRONE – Beck 2-32; Rhoades 1-37; Ronan 2-20; Baldauf 1-7; Miller 1-6.
BELLEFONTE – Lowry 2-11; Weaver 1-6; Cronin 2-14; Badger 1-9; Johnson 1-13.