In running back Garrett Burns, Bald Eagle Area has a luxury that Tyrone simply cannot afford.
Burns is a straight-ahead power runner. He goes downhill, and he goes one way. Against a strong push up front, that style can lead to some plays ending in the backfield, which they did on five occasions last night in Bald Eagle Area’s 15-9 victory over the Golden Eagles at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field.
But the difference between BEA and Tyrone is the Bald Eagles can afford to wait around and be patient, knowing that eventually one of two things will happen: either their line will create enough room for Burns to break a long one or he will continue to plod along, eating up 3 and 4 yards each time he touches the ball. Both of those scenarios are good things, and both played out last night when BEA rallied from two deficits to hand Tyrone its fourth loss of the season.
Burns finished his night with 111 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, and while his average of 4.1 yards per carry may not immediately jump off the pages, the way they played out cut directly at the heart of the issue that has been plaguing Tyrone’s young line all season, on both offense and defense. Burns wore on the Golden Eagles’ defensive front, and though he had only 10 yards on 9 tries through the first two-and-a-half quarters, he finished with 101 yards on 18 carries on the Bald Eagles’ final three series.
Tyrone, meanwhile, never got things moving with its ground game, producing just 22 yards on 22 carries, and average of just a single yard each time it ran the football which made Burns’ 4.1 look like Mount Everest.
It was quite the accomplishment for the senior runner, who came into the season as the top passer returning in the Mountain League before making the switch to running back early in the campaign to make way for strong-armed freshman Carson Nagle.
“At the end of the day, we feel if we can get 2, 3 yards at a chunk, he’s going to bust one of them. He’s going to break a couple tackles,” said Bald Eagle coach Jesse Nagle, whose team improved to 5-1 overall and 4-1 in the Mountain League while spoiling Tyrone’s Homecoming.
However, the erosive nature of Burns’ running style is only part of the story for Tyrone. The other was miscues, and there were some big ones that helped turn the tide and erase the Golden Eagles’ top defensive effort of the season.
Though Tyrone surrendered 15 points, only one touchdown came against the defense, which held an offense averaging 430 yards per game to 163. But the Golden Eagles could never take advantage because they turned the ball over three times, with two leading to scores, and shot themselves in the foot with crucial penalties in key moments.
One of those moments came very early in the game, when Tyrone had a prime chance to extend a lead that four quarters later would have made a huge difference. The Golden Eagles scored just 18 seconds into the first quarter after Ross Gampe fell on a fumbled handoff exchange to give his team possession at Bald Eagle’s 20. On the next play, Keegan Gwinn hit Corrie Beck out of the backfield for a 20-yard score, and Gwinn’s PAT kick made it 7-0.
Once BEA got the ball back, Zac LeGars blocked a punt to set up Tyrone at the 27. After a pass interference call moved the ball to the 12, the Golden Eagles jumped offsides on two consecutive plays and eventually had to settle for a 32-yard field goal attempt, which went wide left off the toe of Gwinn.
On Tyrone’s next series, Gwinn sailed one down the middle and it was picked off by Gavin Eckley, who darted 73 yards untouched for a touchdown that tied the game.
The Golden Eagles had not been a team prone to penalties before last night, nor did they turn the ball over frequently, which left Coach John Franco feeling frustrated.
Turnovers would play a factor again in the second half. Tyrone went ahead 9-7 with 7:55 left in the third quarter when Gampe sacked Carson Nagle in the end zone for a safety. Following the free kick, the Golden Eagles had the ball on the plus side of the 50 when Brady Ronan fumbled to give BEA possession. That drive ended in a missed field goal, but the Bald Eagles made good o their next takeaway.
On Tyrone’s ensuing series, Ethan Koleno picked off Gwinn at the Bald Eagle 45, and BEA turned things over to Burns, who carried 7 times on an 8-play drive, gaining 48 yards. His last run of the third quarter, a 24-yard burst to the 1, set up a shot touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. Burns also ran for the 2-point PAT to make it 15-9.
On the Bald Eagles next 14 plays, Burns carried 13 times, chewing up real estate, eating clock, and allowing BEA to end the game with a pair of kneel-downs inside the Tyrone 20.
Coach Nagle said his team figured some things out in the second half. BEA gave up five sacks in the first half, two from Josh Patterson and three others to the combination of Gampe and LeGars.
In fact, most of the times Carson Nagle went back to pass, he was running for his life, with pressure off the ends sending him scrambling almost immediately off the snap.
In the second half, BEA allowed just the one to Gampe for the safety while opening ample holes to the rugged Burns.
For Tyrone, it’s back to the drawing board, and while they didn’t leave Homecoming with a win to build on, they did play their best defensive game of the season against a team that expects to contend for a 2A championship when Districts roll around. That’s progress, and that’s what Franco wanted to focus on afterwards.
Tyrone hosts Penns Valley next week, while BEA hosts Philipsburg-Osceola.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
BALD EAGLE 7 0 0 8 – 15
TYRONE 7 0 0 0 – 7
T – Beck 20 pass from Gwinn (Gwin kick) 11:42
B – Eckley 73 interception return (Kad. Burns kick) 3:00
T – Safety (Gampe sack in end zone) 7:55
B – G. Burns 1 run (Burns run) 11:55
First Downs 5 11
Yards Rushing 22-22 37-58
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int. 8-25-2 11-18-1
Yards Passing 68 105
TOTAL OFFENSE 90 163
Fumbles/Lost 1-1 4-1
Punts/Avg. 7-35.5 6-32.1
Penalties/Yards 4-20 2-18
TYRONE – Ronan 11-1; Beck 2-1; Miller 1-3; Gwinn 2-4; Walk 4-11; Gampe 2-2.
BALD EAGLE AREA – G. Burns 27-111; Nagle 5-(-46); Eckley 2-2; Kah. Burns (1-3); Team 2-(-12).
TYRONE – Gwinn 7-18-62, 1 TD, 2 Int.; Walk 1-7-6.
Bald Eagle Area – Nagle 11-18-105, 0 TD, 1 Int.
TYRONE – Rhoades 2-14; Ronan 1-6; Gampe 2-16; Beck 3-32.
BALD EAGLE AREA – Splain 1-41; Eckley 3-32; Kah. Burns 2-8; G. Burns 1-1; Watkins 4-23.