Bald Eagles fall short in battle with Mother Nature and Clarion
By BILL ALBRIGHT, Senior Writer
LOCK HAVEN — Regardless of how you look at it, the picture painted at Hubert Jack Stadium by the Clarion and Lock Haven football teams Saturday afternoon was anything but pretty.
In a game played in a steady rain that was filled with big plays, mental mistakes and a ton of physical mistakes, the Golden Eagles were able to slop their way to a 30-21 win over LHU in the home opener for the Bald Eagles.
“We didn’t play good football and that is as simple as it gets,” said LHU head coach Dave Taynor. “We turned the ball over too many times (6 interceptions and 2 lost fumbles). We have to make better decisions with the football and take better care of it. Two of the turnovers in the first half hurt a lot, but the thing that I am most upset about right now is how we handled ourselves as young men. Twice on plays that would have allowed us to get off the field, we get personal fouls. I won’t tolerate that and it will be dealt with.”
The Golden Eagles drew first blood as they scored a pair of touchdowns in the first period, the first drive covering 42 yards on a short field, while the second score was set up by a Clarion interception at midfield.
Trailing 14-0, the Bald Eagles didn’t look for cover underneath the player’s benches to escape the rain that fell throughout the entire game as they battled back tallied a pair of touchdowns of their own for a 14-all tie at halftime.
“We showed some resiliency offensively by battling back not once, but twice,” said Taynor. “I give them (Clarion) a little bit of the credit early in the game. We weren’t able to get anything going with the inside game so we went out on the perimeter. Ethan Persa came in and provided us with a little bit of spark, but he also made some young, poor decisions that we will get past when we take a look at the film. With us having our starting quarterback out for the season, those guys (backups) have to step up. We just made too many mistakes on the football field. Any way you look at it, it was too many.”
LHU took the express route to the end zone for its first score, the drive taking only four plays to cover the 80 yards. The big play on the mini-drive was a 74-yard connection from quarterback Ethan Persa to Tavion Dorsey, capped by a 6-yard jaunt to paydirt by Chantz Swartz.
After the LHU defensive unit held Clarion short of the sticks, the Bald Eagles took over near midfield. On the fourth snap of the possession, Persa hooked up with Nysir Minney-Gratz for a 34-yard catch-and-run to the end zone.
Former Central Mountain standout athlete Austyn Carson kicked both PATs to get the Bald Eagles even.
Clarion put the first two scores of the third quarter on the board when James Metzgar drilled a 24-yard field goal followed by a Marcus McCoy 11-yard TD reception from Golden Eagle backup quarterback Jovante Seard.
However, as they did in the second period, the Bald Eagles battled back to get to within a pair of the Golden Eagles (21-23) when Swartz hauled in a 71-yard scoring effort from Persa in the final minute before the turn for home.
Pressed into service, the redshirt freshman played well at times, but other times, made the mistakes referred to by Coach Taynor.
“First and foremost I was excited for the opportunity to play,” said Persa. “I just wanted to do my one-eleventh and help my team in any way that I could.”
For the game, Persa completed seven of 19 attempts, but four of his tosses were picked off. On the plus side, he threw for 213 yards good for a pair of touchdowns.
“The experience from today’s game and watching film will help me improve in those areas,” said Persa. “Two of the areas that I can learn a lot in are getting used to the speed of the game and learning to recognize coverages from the defenses. Our line did a good job of moving them (Clarion defenders) in what we were trying to do and the coaches also did a good job of calling the plays and getting us in the right spots to be successful.”
Feeling the pressure of having the Bald Eagles breathing down their necks, the Golden Eagles scored the only points of the final period four-plus minutes into the final quarter to make it Clarion 30, LHU 21, a score that held up for the final.
Gratz gave the Bald Eagles a final opportunity to score in the waning moments of the game when he returned a punt to the Clarion 26,. But with only five seconds left on the clock, the Golden Eagles were able to keep LHU from reaching the end zone as one final aerial connection from Persa to Swartz fell short at the 16.
As for Swartz, he was able to make his contributions through the airways and overland as well. For the game, he carried the ball 10 times for 74 yards and one score, while hauling in three passes for another 86 yards and a second touchdown.
“I have to give the line a lot of the credit because when they are getting the job done, is makes it easy for me to do my job,” said Swartz. “I thought they played well and when that happens, it makes it easy for me to also play well.”
As for Persa, Swartz feels that it was good for him to get into the game and get some experience.
“When someone goes down, it is the next man up,” said Swartz. “It is good for him to get in there and get that experience. After Kyle (Knight) went down, it becomes the next man up. Kyle is a great player and it sucks to have seen him go down the way he did but those things happen.”
Now 0-2 on the season, the sledding doesn’t get any easier for the Bald Eagles as they welcome nationally-ranked IUP to Jack Stadium for a PSAC contest Saturday. Kickoff for the fray with the Crimson Hawks is set for High Noon.
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