Say what you will about the Tyrone football team after its game last night against Philipsburg-Osceola: they struggled against the Mounties for the first time in years? Sure. They gave up big pass plays for a second week. Hard to argue.
But it’s just as hard to deny something that’s going on beneath the surface, and that was what Coach John Franco was focused on after the Eagles rallied to down P-O 22-16 at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field.
“These are good Tyrone kids. They don’t quit,” said Franco, whose team evened its record at 2-2 and improved to 2-1 in the Mountain League. “They keep coming back. We did it last week. We did it the week before. We did it against Bellwood. We’ve been down. We just keep coming back. Amazing.”
It’s high praise from a coach who often reserves superlatives for the offseason, but it seemed appropriate after the way the Eagles played in the second half last night. Down 16-7 at halftime – Tyrone’s largest deficit to P-O since 1994 – the Golden Eagles came up with two stops inside their own 15-yard line in the fourth quarter and two gritty drives for touchdowns behind quarterback Brandon Lucas.
With Tyrone’s backfield whittled down to fullback Dean Grassi – who only started playing the position two weeks ago – in the wake of injuries to Noah Zimmerman and Corey Beck, much of the weight of the offense fell on the shoulders of Lucas, and the junior came through.
Lucas ran for 87 yards on 20 carries and completed 10 of 15 passes for another 132 yards. He also scored all three of the Eagles’ touchdowns, including what amounted to the game-winner with 8:11 to play.
“I told Coach I was ready for whatever job he needed me to do,” said Lucas. “My linemen were blocking for me the whole game. It was really appreciated.”
Tyrone’s defense was gashed in a manner similar to last week’s game against Bishop Carroll, allowing 354 yards, but it was at its best in the second half when the Golden Eagles had to come through with stops.
None was bigger than the one it made on the Mounties’ final series, with P-O trailing by six. The Mounties drove from their 37 to the Tyrone 42 before Matt Clifton stormed through on a blitz to sack Ryan Whitehead for a 9-yard loss, setting up fourth-and-20 from the P-O 49. From there, Hunter Weitoish was able to get behind the Eagles’ secondary for a 41-yard completion to Tyrone’s 10 with under five minutes to play.
Later on in the drive, an offsides penalty against Tyrone had the Mounties at the 6, but on fourth down Lucas was able to break up Whitehead’s pass to Aaron Depto in the front of the end zone to thwart the advance and give the Eagles the ball with 3:22 to play.
“I just made a good read on the play,” said Lucas. “My teammates did a great job covering the corner. I saw that (Whitehead) was looking back my way, and I didn’t want to let the team down.”
Playing from the shadows of its own end zone, Tyrone again turned to Lucas, who carried four straight times for 25 yards. That, coupled with a personal foul penalty against the Mounties, gave the Eagles the space and time it needed to run out the clock.
“You could feel it. They had (momentum), and when they went down and scored and it was 16-14, you could just feel it,” said P-O coach Brian McGonigal, whose team fell to 1-3 overall and 0-3 in the league with its third consecutive loss. “We’re trying to keep the kids up and excited, but that’s on them as a team. They’ve got to learn from that and rally and say, next play, let’s go down and punch it in the end zone. We got it going there, but we had three drops that really hurt us.”
The Mounties did most of their damage in the first half, racking up 225 yards while moving the sticks for 31 of their 50 plays.
Their drive to open the game went 70 yards on nine plays with a mixture of runs and passes that had Tyrone on its heels. Kaleb Stamm carried six times for 33 yards while Ryan Whitehead completed a pair of 17-yard passes before hooking up with Depto on a 3-yard scoring connection. After the try for two fell incomplete, the Mounties led 6-0.
Tyrone came back with a five-minute drive that lasted 10 plays, the first of which was a 39-yard run by Zimmerman to the P-O 41. The Eagles benefitted from a roughing the kicker penalty that breathed new life into the drive after a sack and a penalty had them punting on fourth-and-18.
Later, on third-and-11 from the Mounties 30, Brandon Homan made a diving grab at the goal line for a 29-yard gain to the 1, and Lucas sneaked it in from there. Keegan Raabe’s PAT kick gave Tyrone a 7-6 edge with three minutes left in the first quarter.
P-O regained the lead on its ensuing drive, which went 85 yards on nine plays, with the big yardage gained on back-to-back passes from Ryan Whitehead to Chase Chapman for 21 yards and Jeremy Whitehead for 36 yards to get to the 7 early in the second quarter. Stamm would cap the drive with a 4-yard run, and Aaron Parks’ kick made it 13-7.
After forcing a punt, P-O continued to apply pressure offensively, but Tyrone’s defense made the first of several big stands. The Mounties extended a drive with an 18-yard run by Hunter Weitoish on a fake punt, and the Mounties drove as far as Tyrone’s 3, but they were forced to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Parks to take a 16-7 lead that would last until halftime.
“We got a lot of push from our line in the first half,” said McGonigal. “I think we tired out a little bit in the second half.”
After forcing a punt on P-O’s first series of the third quarter, Tyrone got back into it with a 60-yard drive to make it 16-14. Lucas completed twice to Gripp on the advance for 25 yards, the second of which went for 10 yards to the 3. Lucas scored on the next play on fourth-and-goal.
The Mounties then drove to Tyrone’s 13 before a delay penalty moved them back five, and on fourth down Clifton stopped Stamm for a short gain on fourth-and-12. The play gave the Eagles the ball at the 14, and Lucas quickly got the ball upfield, running for gains of 20 and 25 yards on two of Tyrone’s first three plays. He later found Damon Gripp down the sideline for a 24-yard gain after Gripp made an over-the-shoulder grab with coverage draped on his shoulders.
That put the ball at the 12, and on the next play Lucas powered in for the go-ahead score. He then threw to Grip for the two-point conversion.
“He’s a heck of a runner,” Franco said of Lucas. “But he makes plays. He’s a playmaker. Damon Gripp and Brandon Homan – they’re playmakers. So we had to try to use them. And our linemen finally started coming through at the end. But I tip my hat to Philipsburg. They’re a tough group of kids, and they weren’t going to quit.”
Nor was Tyrone, and Franco saw a lot to be happy in for that.
“You figure things out when you have adversity like this, and it will make you better in the long run,” he said.
Tyrone will now host defending District 6 2A champion Bald Eagle Area next week. BEA defeated Tyrone for the first time since 1994 last season.
Tyrone 22, Philipsburg-Osceola 16Score by Quarters Philipsburg-Osceola 6 10 0 0 — 16 Tyrone 7 0 7 8 — 22
Scoring SummaryFirst Quarter PO — Depto 3 pass from R. Whitehead, (pass failed), 7:57 T — Lucas 1 run, (Raabe kick), 3:03
Second Quarter PO — Stamm 4 run, (Parks kick), 11:19 PO — Parks 25 field goal, 4:33
Third Quarter T — Lucas 3 run, (Raabe kick), 4:33
Fourth Quarter T — Lucas 12 run, (Gripp pass from Lucas), 8:11
Team Statistics PO T
First Downs 15 15 Att-Yards Rushing 35-156 31-146 Pass Att.-Comp.-Int. 15-22-0 10-15-0 Passing Yards 198 132 Total Plays-Yards 57-354 46-278 Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0 Penalties-Yards 7-68 3-15 Punts-Average 2-32 3-31
Individual StatisticsRushing Philipsburg-Osceola — Stamm 30-129, J. Whitehead 1-18, R. Whitehead 4-9. Tyrone — Lucas 20-87, Zimmerman 8-57, Beck 3-2.
Passing Philipsburg-Osceola — R. Whitehead 15-of-22, 198 yds., TD. Tyrone — Lucas 10-of-15, 132 yds.
Receiving Philipsburg-Osceola — Stamm 3-22, J. Whitehead 3-50, Weitoish 3-62, Chapman 4-41, Depto 2-20. Tyrone — Gripp 8-98, Homan 2-34.