State College Holds Off McCaskey Third Quarter Rally, Prevails 24-13
It’s the dawn of a new day for the McCaskey football program as first year head man Eric Spencer takes over the head duties of the Red Tornado program. McCaskey didn’t exactly tippy-toe around the competition for the first game of a new era, but rather dove head first into it by squaring off with highly regarded State College at home, a team who could possibly still be playing football in December.
After an initial feeling out process by both squads, the Little Lions took over deep inside their own territory following a block in the back penalty. It looked like another punt would be in the cards until Tyler Snyder found Brandon Clark on an inside screen to move the sticks on a critical 3rd & 8 from their own 9. Travel via air was still the way to go for State College as Snyder found Cohen Russell for a big chunk of yards down to the Lion 46. The impressive looking Russell was on the scene again as he got himself open across the middle and hauled in a 23 yard reception down to the McCaskey 9 later in the drive. After a pair of plays saw the Tornado fail to yield to their visitors near the goal line, the Lions put neon on the scoreboard first when Snyder extended the play beautifully, avoiding pressure in the pocket, and found Noah Woods open in the back corner of theendzone to give State College the 7-0 lead with just under two minutes left in the opening quarter to cap the 90 yard drive.
The Lion defense was nasty all night, but particularly in the first half, as they seemed to diagnose each play perfectly showing up uninvited to the ball right away. This forced McCaskey to punt the ball away a handful of times, as they did once more before the first quarter clock expired. State College would take over at the Tornado 32 following a personal foul.
As many of the good teams do, State College seized the opportunity and got things started by having Brandon Clark take the ball down inside the 5 on yet another impactful grab by the junior. The youth movement continued for the Little Lions as sophomore Cohen Russel turned the jets on during a sweep to hit paydirt and give State College the 14-0 edge with just over a minute gone by in the quarter.
It looked as though McCaskey would answer back as JuanyaGonzalez set the Tornado up in great field position at the Lion 46 after a nice kickoff return. The drive would hit the skids though as that relentless Lion D showed up again, forcing a 20 yard loss in the drive setting up a 3rd & 26 which went by the wayside forcing another Tornado punt.
On the ensuing drive, State College found the endzone again courtesy of a great juke move by Cohen Russell on a long run, but flags made the play all for not as holding was whistled against the Lions. Even with the penalty, State College was mounting yet another drive, but on 3rd 10 from the Tornado 25, linebacker Carlos Lugo came up with a monster sack for a loss of 10 yards to make State College handle a 4th & 20. State College went for it being in no man’s land, but the pass sailed incomplete and the Little Lions turned back over to the Red Tornado on downs.
Yet another McCaskey punt saw Tristen Lyons return it to the Tornado 40 with two minutes and change left on the first half clock. Faced with a 3rd & 25 on the drive, the Lions’ passed sailed incomplete, however the drive was extended by way of McCaskey personal foul call which took it down to the Tornado 26 with time winding down.
The McCaskey D answered the bell again. This time the Tornado brought the heat creating a sack and fumble recovery in the process, as Julius Sitts pounced on the loose ball to avoid any further damage going into the halftime break, in a first half that by and large felt dominated by the Little Lions, despite the somewhat slim two touchdown advantage.
After the two teams traded punts coming out of the locker room, State College set up shop a long away from home at their own 17. On 3rd & 11, a low snap spelled trouble for State College as the Tornado scored the half’s first takeaway setting up McCaskey up in prime field position on the fumble recovery.
The McCaskey version of 3rd down faired a little better as quarterback Jathan Gonzalez scrambled out of pressure and into the endzone on 3rd & Goal from the 9 to put McCaskey right back in the ballgame at 14-7 with 4:38 left in the third.
With momentum starting to sway and the crowd having new signs of life, McCaskey kept the party going when Isiah Speller came up with the interception for a Tornado takeaway on the second straight drive which sent the confirmation that it was a brand new ballgame.
McCaskey kept their foot on the gas when Gonzalez rolled out on the bootleg and hooked up with Anthony DeLeon down to the Little Lion 43 on a 38 yard pickup. Jackson Heasley would help temper the Tornado vibes however, as he came up with a big tackle for loss on the drive which set up a McCaskey 3rd & 15.
Enter Cole Urbas to help turn the tide. On the McCaskey punt, Urbas came up large by getting the punt block, which flipped the field and saw State College take over at the McCaskey 33. “That was a huge for a sophomore to step up and make a play like that for us,” said State College head man Matt Lintal.
All things considered, the McCaskey defense came up with big stops throughout the night with their backs against the wall. With the Lions knocking on the door following the blocked punt, the Tornado rose up again and forced no more than a field goal, albeit a huge field goal, as Jack Sheehan knocked it through the pipes to give SC the 17-7 lead.
With McCaskey needing something to claw within a more manageable reach, State College refused to give in as Matthew Vivas and PeteHaffner combined on a big sack the next time McCaskey got their hands on the ball. The Tornado were forced to punt and State College was able to put their finishing touches on the game.
The Lions began to milk the clock down and relied on the senior Haffner to carry them home, literally, as he got the bulk of the load the next State College drive which included a 35 yard gallop down to the Tornado 10.
The Snyder to Woods connection worked so well in the first half, State College proved it was still successful as the duo hooked up for their second TD combination of the night to put it out of harm’s way at 24-7 with just 2:11 remaining.
Much to McCaskey’s credit, the Tornado still saw the remaining time was worth getting some extra work in, and they were rewarded for their efforts as Jathan Gonzalez ran it in for his second rushing TD of the night with the clock showing allzeroes, making it a successful road trip for State College as they picked up the 24-13 victory.
NEXT UP: State College will go up against Hollidaysburg, Mifflin County, and Mechanicsburg before getting into the beast that is the Mid Penn Commonwealth when they meet Carlisle 9/30. McCaskey will continue with their traditional city series opponents as they meet York and Reading High in the coming weeks before getting into Lancaster Lebanon Section 1 play against the Buckskins of Conestoga Valley.
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