BEA visits Tyrone on Homecoming

Occam’s Razor is a principle that suggests when looking for a solution the one requiring the fewest assumptions is probably the right one. It has evolved over the year’s to mean the simplest solution is probably the right one.

From that lens, any issues the Tyrone football team (2-3) has faced this season can be rectified quite simply, and to locate their source would take little more than to look at a stat sheet. The Golden Eagles do not run the football effectively, and they have an even tougher time stopping the run.

In short, there’s a lot of work to be done along the offensive and defensive lines.

That puts added weight on Friday’s game against Bald Eagle Area, the annual Homecoming game in Tyrone at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field.

Bald Eagle is a team that can run the football, and they stop it pretty well, too; but at the same time the Bald Eagles are not in quite the same class as those teams that have devastated Tyrone in the trenches this season. Bellwood-Antis, which ran for 200 yards against the Golden Eagles, has one of the top lines in school history, and they’ve shoved the ball down the throat of every team it has played. Juniata Valley is similar, and the Hornets’ game against the Blue Devils in three weeks should be a doozy in the ICC. Clearfield, as always, can run with anyone, and quarterback/defensive end Oliver Billotte is just one part of a defensive line that made running the ball against the Bisons nearly impossible.

At 4-1, BEA is good, but they make a solid measuring stick for the young Golden Eagles, whose only win on the field this season came in Week 3 against Bellefonte. Bald Eagle has shut out three teams and held one other team to a single touchdown, but in their Week 2 matchup against Clearfield they lost 21-0. Among the four teams the Bald Eagles have beaten, only one has a winning record.

Tyrone has not played in two weeks since falling to the Bisons 42-12 at home on September 17. Their game last week against Huntingdon went down as a 2-0 victory, but it was never contested after the Bearcats were forced to forfeit because their roster was decimated by COVID quarantines. The Eagles actually found an offensive rhythm to their liking near the end of the first half against Clearfield, producing one long scoring drive while another stalled out on downs at the Bisons 1.

If that was truly progress, if it’s something Tyrone can build on for games against teams closer to its own potential, the Bald Eagle game will be the time to show it. But it’s going to have to start with producing a push on the line, no matter what side of the ball it’s coming from.

In four games, the Eagles have run for only 231 yards, that’s little more than 50 each game and an average of 2.7 yards per carry. At the same time they have hemorrhaged yards on the ground to opponents, surrendering just over 1,000 rushing yards. Five different players have gone for more than 100 yards in a single game, with two teams – Clearfield and Juniata Valley – pushing two players over the century mark.

For Tyrone to get over the hump, those numbers have to begin leveling out somewhere. The Golden Eagles have some solid backs, including sophomore Brady Ronan, who is a strong candidate to become Tyrone’s next thousand-yard back sometime over the next two seasons. But they’re often met with resistance before they make it through the hole, so that even the meager 2.7 yards the Eagles average each time they run the ball are often all yards after contact. That’s not a recipe for a flourishing running game.

As a result, Tyrone has gone to a quick passing game, which worked wonder against the Bisons. Keegan Gwinn completed 17 of 32 passes for 169 yards, but in a league like the Mountain League, one that still functions on strength and power, that’s only going to get a team so far.

BEA, on the other hand, has found a suitable balance. Though the Bald Eagles are running for just over 112 yards per game, they’re passing for 191 behind freshman quarterback Carson Nagle. What he has done with BEA’s read-passing game has allowed Garrett Burns, a one-time quarterback, to flourish. He’s averaging 8.3 yards per carry and has had two hundred-yard games, so while it’s not the mathematical epitome of perfect balance one offsets and sets up the other.

If Coach John Franco’s offense can achieve anywhere near that balance, Tyrone’s got a team that can use it to make plays. Their receiving corps is deep, young, and talented, with players like players like Deegan Baldauf and Ross Gampe proven playmakers. They’ve got a veteran that can get open for big gains in senior Cortlyn Rhoades, who leads the team with 147 receiving yards. They’ve got possession receivers out of the backfield in players like Ronan and Corrie Beck.

All that’s needed is a run game that might make throwing to those players a little less obvious.

The game against BEA will be the perfect test of how much improvement Tyrone has made in that area.

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