Flying Dutch pull starters with game tied in the fourth
St. Mary’s coach Chris Dworek has been coaching the game of football for 30 years. He’s won three District 9 titles and he’s a member of the Central Pennsylvania Coaches Hall of Fame. His track record is strong enough that he’s earned the right to coach a game as he sees fit with few questions asked.
But still, his decision to pull his starters last night against Tyrone in the fourth quarter of a game that was headed for high drama seemed a bit odd on the surface.
The game was tied 14-14 after Tyrone had scored on a run by Kolten Miller, and with 9:52 left on the clock and superstar quarterback Christian Courdiet beginning to really heat up, there was plenty of time for the Dutch’s high-octane offense to punch it in at least one more time.
Dworek had a different end-game scenario in mind, and it had very little to do with whether or not his team could squeak out a win over the Golden Eagles. Instead, he was thinking of the future and a game that meant a lot more than the regular season finale.
Opting to pull his starters, Dworek opened the gates on a 21-point fourth quarter for the Golden Eagles, who went on to win 28-14 at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field.
This was not, Dworek said, a popular decision among his players, but it was one he stood by, even after he saw the Dutch’s 8-game winning streak snapped. What it came down to, he said, was safely making it into the District 9 3A championship game next week, where St. Mary’s will face undefeated Clearfield.
The complexion of the game in the second half played a part in the decision, as well. St. Mary’s was tagged for two personal foul penalties in the second half and the competitive spirit on the field was becoming somewhat contentious. The last thing Dworek needed was a player to be ejected, which would have resulted in a suspension for the team’s biggest game of the season. That much Dworek admitted when asked about some of the combativeness displayed during the fourth quarter.
The personnel change certainly set up a clear path for the Golden Eagles and Coach John Franco, who said he initially thought the Dutch were just providing some time for their starters to grab a breather.
Following the substitutions, Tyrone forced a short punt and took over at the St. Mary’s 39, scoring in just four plays on runs by Brady Ronan, the last of which went for 3 yards and the go-ahead score.
When the Dutch got the ball back at their own 11, Tyrone limited the backups to 6 net yards and took over on downs. Ronan again got four straight carries and scored from the 4 to set the final.
It was a strange sequence of events in a game whose impact was felt throughout District 6. With the win, Tyrone evened its record at 5-5 and jumped ahead of Penn Cambria to claim the No. 2 seed in the semifinal round of next week’s District 6 2A championships. The Eagles would have played the Panthers either way, but by defeating an 8-1 3A team they garnered enough points to make sure the game would be played at home and not in Cresson.
“It’s good to see how far we’ve come,” said Tyrone coach John Franco. “And now we get an opportunity to go into the playoffs. We’re really excited to be 5-5 at this point after the way we started, so let’s see if we can get a little better next week.”
Defensively, Tyrone bottled up one of the area’s premier passing games about as well as possible. The Golden Eagles used a variety of blitzes to sack Chris Courdiet twice in the first half and hurry him into errant throws on several other occasions. They also picked him off twice and limited the Dutch to just 68 yards on the ground.
Courdiet finished 14-for-18 for 202 yards and a touchdown, but St. Mary’s was never able to achieve the fast-break pace that’s typical of their offense.
“I thought our defensive game plan was tremendous,” said Franco. “Pat McNelis is our defensive coordinator. Steve Guthoff is his primary helper, and they put a fantastic defensive game plan together against an outstanding passing team. Our game plan was excellent in slowing it down.”
The Golden Eagles never punted and made it at least as far as the Dutch 35 on 7 of their 8 possessions (their final drive started at the St. Mary’s 17). Their first two series went to the 21 and 26, respectively, but Walk was intercepted near the goal line on the first one and the second ended when he threw incomplete on fourth-and 5.
St. Mary’s got on the board first when, following the failed fourth-down conversion, Courdiet completed a 10-yard pass in the flat to Carter Chadsey, who turned it up field and was gone for a 74-yard touchdown. The Dutch missed the PAT attempt but led 6-0 with 1:16 left in the first quarter.
Tyrone’s next series lasted 12 plays and got as far as the 12, ultimately ending when Keegan Gwinn had his 30-yard field goal attempt bounce off the left upright midway through the second quarter. But on St. Mary’s ensuing possession, the Golden Eagles brought the house and sacked Courdiet twice (one each by Ross Gampe and Zac LeGars) while stopping two other plays behind the line of scrimmage to force a punt.
The Eagles took over at their 36 with 1:17 left in the half and drove the distance in 8 plays to take a 7-6 lead at halftime. Ashton Walk went 4-for-6, completing a pair of 10-yard passes to Gampe and Corrie Beck before throwing back across his body for an 8-yard touchdown pass to Gampe with 3.8 second until halftime. The first of four PAT kicks from Gwinn gave the Eagles their narrow edge.
The Dutch got the lead back on their opening possession of the second half, going 72 yards in 12 plays. Matthew Davis sparked the march with runs of 15 and 18 yards, and Courdiet kept the drive going with a 17-yard pass to Chadsey on third-and-8 to get the ball to the 30. Courdiet eventually sneaked in from the 2 and then threw to Jackson Vollmer to put St. Mary’s up 14-7 with 7:19 left in the third.
The Dutch almost put the game away with a 10-play drive that lasted into the fourth quarter. Courdiet went 6-for-6 on the advance, but on first-and-goal from the 7 Ronan stepped in front of pass headed for the goal line and returned it to the 40.
Walk passed to Gampe for 22 yards on the next play, and after a personal foul penalty he ran for 17 to the 1. Kolten Miller then diced his way into the endzone to tie it.
Walk finished his night 16-for-21 for 165 yards. While he threw his first interception of the season, he was also able to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark – no small feat for a freshman who just took over the starting job three weeks ago.
“He reads his progressions very well,” said Franco. “He’s able to get a good handle on what they’re doing defensively. He’s a freshman, and he works really hard at it. I’ve never had a ninth grader who watches this much film. He’s only scraped the surface right now, but there’s a lot of potential there.”
Along with Walk’s steady play, Tyrone also got a renewed push from its offensive and defensive lines.
Playing in a steady drizzle most of the game, Tyrone relied heavily on its ground game, which had been stymied most of the season. But against the Dutch the Eagles ran 37 times for 151 yards led by Ronan, who carried 25 times for 115 of them. Ronan also scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
In all, the Eagles produced 316 yards of total offense, which makes four straight games they have hit the mark after not getting there through the first 6 weeks of the season.
“It was nice to be able to run the ball, especially against a good 8-1 team,” said Franco. “We hadn’t done that very much this year, especially against good teams.”
Tyrone may be finding its stride at just the right time, which is what it will need next week against the 5-5 Panthers. Tyrone defeated Penn Cambria 20-14 in a dogfight in the semifinals a year ago.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
ST. MARY’S 6 0 8 0 – 14
TYRONE 0 7 0 21 – 28
S – Chadsey 74 pass from Courdiet (PAT failed) 1:16
T – Gampe 8 pass from Walk (Gwinn kick) :3.8
S – Courdiet 2 run (Courdiet pass to Vollmer) 7:19
T – Miller 1 run (Gwinn kick) 9:52
T – Ronan 3 run (Gwinn kick) 6:05
T – Ronan 4 run (Gwinn kick) 1:22
First Downs 20 15
Yards Rushing 37-151 24-68
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int. 16-21-1 14-19-2
Yards Passing 165 202
TOTAL OFFENSE 316 270
Fumbles/Lost 0-0 1-0
Punts/Avg. 0-0 2-15.5
Penalties/Yards 8-40 8-68
TYRONE – Ronan 25-115; Walk 7-13; Beck 1-9; LeGars 1-1; Miller 3-13.
ST. MARY’S – Dornisch 8-30; Davis 3-41; Chr. Courdiet 5-(-7); Amador 1-(-4); Snelick 1-(-1); Steele 4-(-2); Lewis 1-6; Riekofsky 1-5.
TYRONE – Walk 14-16-165, 1 TD, 1 Int.
ST. MARY’S – Chr. Courdiet 14-18-202, 1 TD, 2 Int.; Lewis 0-1-0.
TYRONE – Gampe 5-82; Rhoades 1-7; Beck 3-26; Ronan 2-12; LeGars 2-13; Baldauf 2-17; Veres 1-8.
ST. MARY’S – Chadsey 4-122; Cha. Courdiet 3-25; Reitz 2-16; Davis 1-8; Mosier 3-25; Steele 1-(-4).