Friday, October 7 2022

BALD EAGLE AREA’s Carson Nagle (9) returns to the Bald Eagles in his sophomore year in hopes of winning the district and state titles in 2022. As a rookie, Nagle completed 168 passes for 1,897 yards and 16 touchdowns.

For those of us who have been looking forward to the start of the 2022 football season, relief is in sight.

That’s because all five Center County high school football teams will open their seasons this week, and all five will start against tough opponents.

The State College Little Lions, a disappointing 8-6 last season, host Williamsport on Friday August 26, and all four Mountain League teams will be in action at home on the same night: West Branch will play Philipsburg-Osceola, Bald Eagle Area will host Troy, Bellefonte has Selinsgrove at home and Penns Valley plays Line Mountain.

Here is a brief overview of each match:

WILLIAMSPORT (0-0) AT STATE COLLEGE (0-0)
FRIDAY AUGUST. 26
STATE UNIVERSITY

The State College Little Lions were just 5-5 heading into the playoffs last season, but the team was bolstered by a tough schedule at Mid-Penn and quickly proved they were ready to go. everything.

SC won three straight playoff games over Williamsport, Delaware Valley and Harrisburg en route to the PIAA 6A Semi-Finals.

Unfortunately, eventual state champion Mt. Lebanon prevailed in that semi-final match, 49-28, but the race to the state championship gate was quite an achievement nonetheless.

The Lions have lost 23 seniors from that team, including key offensive contributors Branden Price, Jashuan Green, Brady Bendik, Kyle Kurzinger and TJ Yoder.

That doesn’t mean the closet is empty, though.

Three quarterbacks — Jack Morris, Finn Furmanek and Owen Yerka, who combined for a total of 137 completions for more than 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns — will all return for the 2022 season.

Yerka and Furmanek combined for 794 rushing yards last season as well, and Morris also added 127 rushing yards.

Price, Green, Kurzinger and Yoder were the team’s top receivers last year, but Donte Nastasi and tight end Steve Scourtis caught 25 passes between them and will be back.

The Little Lion’s defense has only given up more than 20 points once in the last eight games of 2021, and with many starters coming back to that side of the ball, the defense looks like one of the strong points of the game. ‘crew.

Williamsport was 6-6 last year and saw its season end with a 17-14 loss to State College in a playoff game on Nov. 11.

The Millionaires lost starting quarterback Frankie Morrone (1,051 yards, 10 TDs), but dual-threat backup George Whaley (732 yards, 7 TDs) will return with running back Nasir Hennigan (668 yards).

Top receiver Jamaire Harden (33 rec., 678 yds) will be back with Yazhir Slaughter (6 rec., 205 yds).

All in all, Williamsport will be looking to avenge that playoff loss and get their season going again, but the Little Lions won’t come easy.

The SC has size, physical defense and a lot of experience coming back on offense, especially at quarterback.

It will be a tough first night for both teams.

Kick off is at 7 p.m.

TROY (0-0) IN THE BLIND EAGLE ZONE (0-0)
FRIDAY AUGUST. 26
WING DOOR

Bald Eagle Area is coming off a very successful 8-3 season in 2021, and with plenty of players returning on both sides of the ball for 2022, the Bald Eagles are surely looking for more of the same…or even better.

It will all start again with second-year quarterback Carson Nagle, who threw 168 completions last year for 1,897 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Nagle fullback Garrett Burns (1,157 yards, 12 TDs) has graduated, but backups Cameron Dubbs, Chase Thompson and Nick Wible will all return.

At receiver, top Owen Irvin also graduated, but Kahale Burns (379 yards), Cam Watkins (495 yards), Gavin Eckley (224 yards) and Elliot Splain (229 yards) are all back in what will be a receiving body in depth.

Defensively, the Eagles had 30 sacks and 12 interceptions and had eight fumbles last year, and leaders in all those categories are back, including Watkins, who himself had 10.5 sacks.

Troy also had a successful year in 2021. After losing to BEA at home, 20-0, to start the year, the Trojans won seven of their next eight games and finished 8-4. After a playoff win over Sayre, the Trojans ended their season with a 35-7 loss to Mt. Carmel.

Troy’s other wins included 12-0 over Athens, 35-0 over North Penn Mansfield, 21-0 over Wellsboro and 30-6 over Towanda.

Troy will field a very young team with just five seniors and plenty of sophomores and freshmen on the roster.

BEA is hoping for a strong start here as over the next three weeks the team will see Clearfield, Bellefonte and Penns Valley.

Kick off is at 7 p.m.

SELINSGROVE (0-0) AT BELLEFONTE (0-0)
FRIDAY AUGUST. 26
BELLEFONTE

The Bellefonte Raiders had an unusual 2-8 record in 2021, with their only wins over Philipsburg-Osceola and Huntingdon.

The Raiders were a young team and they only lost two of their best offensive players in dual-threat quarterback Nichlas Way and running back Nolan Weaver.

Returning for the new season, quarterback Trevor Johnson (28 completions, 397 yards), running backs Grayson Alterio (203 yards) and Sherman Lowry (131 yards), and key receivers Dominic Capperella (15 catches, 229 yards) and Tyler Rice (8 for 149 yards).

Defensively, Rice was the team’s main tackle, and he’ll be joined by Johnson, Addison Shawley and Nathan Way on what will be a much more experienced defense.

Rice also led the team in steals with three, and the Raiders in general will be looking to improve their sack (just 13 last season) and takeout numbers.

Selinsgrove was 8-4 last year and has seven wins in eight games after losing its first two games of the season.

There were impressive wins over Berwick, 42-14, Muhlenberg, 20-3, Shikellamy, 40-0, Central Mountain, 33-23 and Central Columbia, 44-0. The Seals’ season ended on November 12 with a 41-0 playoff loss to Jersey Shore.

Junior quarterback Mark Pastore had a strong season in 2021 with 73 completions for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he’ll be joined in the backfield with last year’s second-best rusher in Tucker Teats, who carried the ball 110 times for 628 yards and nine touchdowns.

Receiver Gavin Bastian (423 yds, 4 TDs) will also return, but the Seals’ top two receivers of 2021 have graduated.

Selinsgrove’s defense has been extremely aggressive in 2021, racking up 101 tackles for loss, 33 sacks, 10 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries.

Many of the leaders of that defense will be back, including center linebacker, No. 2 sackman and leading tackle Corey Rumberger.

The Raiders are hoping to get off to a good start here, but they’ll have to avoid any mistakes against the Seals defense.

Kick off is at 7 p.m.

LINE MOUNTAIN (0-0) AT PENNS VALLEY (0-0)
FRIDAY AUGUST. 26
SPRING MILLS

The Penns Valley Rams were 6-5 in 2021, and they struggled with a losing record until they reunited and won three of their last four games.

That streak started with a 55-0 win over Everett, then continued with a 40-14 decision over PO and a 45-14 win over Glendale.

The Rams’ season ended on November 5 with a 49-28 playoff loss at Bellwood-Antis.

Sophomore quarterback Jackson Romig led the Rams with 85 completions for 1,261 yards and 20 touchdowns, while returning running back Ty Watson was the leading running back with 584 yards and nine touchdowns on 92 carries .

Leading receiver Miles Brooks (703 yds) will return with John Meyer (200 yds) and Watson (148 yds).

Defensively, PV gave up high numbers in their first few losses, but only Bellwood has scored more than 14 points in their last four games.

This year’s opening night opponent will be Line Mountain of Herndon.

The Eagles were 2-8 last year, with their only wins over Newport (13-10) and James Buchanan (41-13) in the final weeks of the season. They entered the playoffs but lost big, 62-14, to Southern Columbia in the first round.

The Eagles will return almost their entire offense starting in 2021, including quarterback Blake Readinger, running back Nolan Baumert and receivers Connor Finlan and Brayden Boyer.

Defensively, Line Mountain showed improvement as the season progressed, but the Eagles were still susceptible to big play all season.

Penns Valley, with its many returning players on offense, may be able to score often in this game, but they will also need to be able to slow the Eagles down.

Kick off is at 7 p.m.

WEST BRANCH (0-0) TO PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (0-0)
FRIDAY AUGUST. 26
PHILIPSBURG

Philipsburg-Osceola and West Branch certainly need no introduction, and they’ll renew their long-running rivalry Friday night in Philipsburg.

Last year, West Branch staged a second-half comeback at Allport and edged the Mounties, 28-21, in overtime after a monster game from dual-threat quarterback Tyler Biggans.

Biggans scored two touchdowns in the ground game, including the game-winner, and threw two more. He completed seven passes for 157 yards and rushed 15 times for 57 additional yards.

And the West Branch defense shut out PO in the second half, allowing the Warriors to tie the game in the third quarter and then win it in overtime.

Biggans is back for his junior season, and he will once again be a major factor in every game for the Warriors.

Besides his passing, Biggans was the team’s leading rusher with 555 yards on 122 carries, but he’ll also be joined in the backfield by junior Wyatt Schwiderske, who rushed 109 times for 526 yards.

Tight end Kyle Kolesar (18 catches, 228 yards) and wide receiver Azadio Vargas will also return for the new season.

In Philipsburg, Ben Gustkey will return to quarterback after going 2-8 in 2021. Gustkey threw for 615 yards and eight touchdowns last year, and he will anchor an offense that will need to replace his top three runners – Luke Hughes, Matt Martin and Andrew Faust – plus Martin’s yards at wide receiver (235). But main receiver Nick Johnson is back, as well as junior Denny Prestash.

Defensively, the Constables have been hampered by injuries throughout the season, and the team have fallen in their last five straight games.

The news from the Philipsburg camp is that the numbers are up and this year the Mounties will field a bigger and physically stronger squad.

But they still have to slow Biggans down, and that will be the big key on Friday night.

Kick off is at 7 p.m.

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