Central Catholic Wins Close One Against State College 24-21
Written by: Nate Grella on Saturday, November 23rd, 2019
If there has been one theme the past three years for the State College Little Lions, it is “close, but never close enough.” In 2017, a Tommy Friberg and Brandon Clark led squad faced 5 star QB Phil Jurkovec in the PIAA quarterfinals. They were seemingly overwhelmed by Pine Richland’s explosive offense. A year later, the Rams defense stood out against Keaton Ellis and Friberg to pull ahead at Mansion Park in Altoona. This year seemed different for Coach Matt Lintal. The Central Catholic Vikings upset Pine Richland 10-7 at Heinz Field in the 6A Championship to give the Little Lions a new opponent in 2019.
From the beginning of the game it seemed like this one would present a much better chance. Although the Vikings were heavily favored heading into the matchup, State College didn’t pay attention to the noise. On the opening kick, State College’s Lowkey Howell took a 95 yarder to the house to give the Lions an instant lead. The Lions would get the ball back soon after, and a 6 yard run by Dresyn Green would make the score 14-0 in the early 1st.
The Lion’s defense played well throughout the whole game, but were burned on big plays and long drives, which would lead to their downfall. On the Vikings second drive, a 65 yard pass from Dominic Pieto to Gannon Carothers made the score 14-7. Following a Brady Dorner fumble in the mid 2nd quarter, the State College defense would force a 4th down on their own 26. The Vikings would end up going for it. They not only converted but threw the ball to Carothers again in the corner of the endzone to tie it up heading into the half.
Both defenses would regroup in the 3rd quarter. A strong Central Catholic defensive line, headed by 3 star A’meer Allen, held the Lions to only 11 offensive plays in the 3rd quarter and forced two 3 and outs.
The Vikings would eventually break through the Lions defense, again on 4th down. It happened late in the 3rd quarter. Faced with a 4th and 6 on the State College 44, the Vikings lined up to punt. The Vikings teased a fake punt earlier in the game in a similar position, but a timeout caused Catholic to reconsider their choice. On this play there would be no such indecision. Vikings Scatback JD Younger pulled the ball out of the snap, ran toward the sideline, got the edge of the coverage team, and ran into the endzone to go up by 7.
Faced with their first deficit of the night, the Little Lions would not be denied for long. State College began the following drive on their own 46 following another excellent kickoff return. Riding 4 straight run plays from Dresyn Green, the Little Lions were back in the redzone early in the 4th quarter. The Vikings stood strong and forced a crucial 3rd down. When faced with possibly the biggest play of his career, Brady Dorner stepped up and avoided tacklers before delivering a strike to Lowkey Howell in the endzone to tie it up.
Although the score was tied at 21, it still felt as though the Vikings were in the driver’s seat. The Little Lions forced a big 3 and out, giving their offense the ball with 9 minutes left in the matchup. The State College offense was not able to score this time, as the Vikings stood tall and forced a three and out following a 9 yard 1st down pass.
With 7:16 left in a tie game, the Vikings had all the momentum and the ball. Throughout the whole matchup, Central Catholic rode Running Back Edward Tillman on offense, and this drive would be no different. On an 8 minute drive that followed, Tillman would get the ball 9 times on 14 plays, driving down the field for a Central Catholic field goal. The Lions would be left with 1:08 on the clock to attempt a comeback.
Dorner was sacked twice in the first two plays of the next drive. The second one would end up knocking him and the Little Lions out of the game, leaving them with a difficult 24-21 loss and ending the Little Lions magical season. Just like the two years before, State College was close, but not close enough.
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