St. Mary’s comes to town with one of the region’s top passers

St. Mary’s and Tyrone played twice in 2008 and 2009 when the Flying Dutch spent a brief time competing in the Mountain Athletic Conference, and their last game against the Eagles was an interesting one.

On October 9, 2009, against a Tyrone team loaded with sophomores who would eventually drive the team to a PIAA championship game when they became seniors, the Dutch took Tyrone to the limit. St. Mary’s led twice in the first half before Stevie Franco, who passed that night for 190 yards, threw a pair of second-half touchdowns in a 27-14 victory in Tyrone.

One notable statistic from that game at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field: St. Mary’s produced zero passing yards in 4 attempts.

It’s safe to say it’s a figure the Dutch will not reproduce Friday when they visit Tyrone for both teams’ regular-season finale. At 8-1, St. Mary’s is eyeing a District 9 3A championship, riding the passing of one of the best quarterbacks in the area in senior Christian Coudriet.

For his career, Christian Coudriet has thrown for more than 6,600 yards to go along with 66 touchdown passes.

Coudriet is in the midst of a special season. Now in his third season as a starter, Coudriet has completed 181 of 273 passes for 2,416 yards and 22 touchdowns. That’s just about 1,000 yards more than Tyrone has thrown for this season when you combine the totals of Ashton Walk and Keegan Gwinn, who started every game up through Week 7.

For his career, Coudriet has thrown for more than 6,600 yards to go along with 66 touchdown passes.

To be certain, Coudriet has a lot to work with. Three of his receivers have more than 500 yards in receptions, led by Logan Mosier’s 807 yards on 47 grabs. Coudriet himself has passed for more than 300 yards three times this season, including a season-high 400 in a Week 6 win over Karns City.

Numbers like those easily isolate Coudriet as the best passer Tyrone’s defense has faced this season.

Walk, meanwhile, has done enough to solidify himself as the quarterback of the future in Tyrone. The freshman has completed 62 of 110 passes for 909 yards and 10 touchdowns, and that’s in a partial season. Where extended time on the field is concerned, Walk has made only two starts and served as the primary quarterback for 11 quarters.

That bodes well for the future of the Golden Eagles’ program, but Friday against St. Mary’s the Golden Eagles will be facing a quarterback who is in his prime right now.

Coudriet will lead a Dutch team riding an 8-game winning streak. With a win, the 4-5 Golden Eagles could put themselves in position to finish second in District 6 2A and earn a home playoff game.

St. Mary’s, meanwhile, is already in as the second-place finisher in District 9 3A behind Clearfield.

Tyrone’s secondary has faced some premier passers already this season and come away relatively unscathed. Few teams have passed for much more than 100 yards against Tyrone, and the sound play of the Eagles’ defensive backs is one reason why. Both Cortlynd Rhoades and Brady Ronan have a pair of interceptions.

A strong pass rush is another. Tyrone has recorded 13 sacks this season, with Ross Gampe, Josh Patterson, Zac LeGars, and Jake Johnson each producing 3.

But perhaps the biggest reason the Eagles have averted giving up big numbers in the passing game is because most teams haven’t had to pass against Tyrone, and those teams who have played close with the Golden Eagles only to ultimately pull away eventually abandoned their passing attacks and gone strictly to the run.

That’s an area that still needs some work. Tyrone has been diced for 1,515 yards in 8 games decided on the field (a Week 4 win over Huntingdon came by way of forfeit), for an average of 189 yards per game. The Eagles gave up 281 last week in their 44-21 loss to Hollidaysburg.

But though Tyrone’s run defense has been a work in progress, it’s an area that could be a strength against the Dutch, depending on the weather. With the forecast calling for rain all day up through game time, St. Mary’s may have to take more caution with their powerful passing attack, and as a running football team the Dutch are comparable to Tyrone.

St. Mary’s has run for only 674 yards this season for a 3.4 yards per carry average. When you can average more than 13 yards per completion, that’s not a problem, but that could change if the forecast proves as miserable as prognosticators are predicting.

Whether a slick track helps Tyrone offensively is yet to be seen. Tyrone’s own running attack has not produced much this season, though it’s not for lack of effort. Of the 431 plays the Eagles have run, 206 have been rushing plays, producing only 451 yards (2.2 yards/carry). It’s been the playmaking ability of Walk that’s ignited Tyrone’s offense and allowed the Eagles to average 29 points over its last three games, and from there any success in the run game has been an offshoot of the passing attack.

Tyrone is aiming for a .500 split to the regular season, which may not seem like much one year after making the District 6 3A championship game, but considering Tyrone was 1-3 at one point this season, it would be no small accomplishment. The Dutch, meanwhile, are hoping to continue to build on the recent success it has enjoyed under Coach Chris Dworek, who took over the program in 2019 when it was in the midst of a 22-game losing streak. St. Mary’s went 6-5 in Dworek’s first campaign before finishing 5-1 last season.

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