Tyrone Golden Eagles: 40
B-A Blue Devils: 13
Friday, September 3, 2004• Gray Veterans Memorial Field • Tyrone, Pennsylvania
By Kerry Naylor | Daily Herald Sports Correspondent
If this coaching thing doesn’t work out for John Franco, and all indications are that it’s going fine so far, he could always try his hand at the world poker tour.
— After all, it’s difficult to imagine anyone steadier in situations that seem appropriate for emotional expression.
— Take last night for example. Franco was rather demure following Tyrone’s 40-13 victory over Bellwood-Antis at Gray Veterans Memorial Field, a win that was special for several reasons:
— It was Franco’s 101st win coaching the Golden Eagles, putting him atop the all-time coaching victories list at Tyrone ahead of Steve Jacobs.
— The win came against an archrival turned conference opponent, allowing the Eagles to open the regular season and the conference season on a positive note.
— In the first game of the season, Tyrone turned a game often driven by jitters and nerves into a showcase of its depth and athletic talent.
— But Franco, hand on chin as if already dissecting the game tape, was already anticipating how the game could be used for improvement-making just minutes after the contest finished.
— “We still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “Even though we were up 33-0 at halftime, I just didn’t feel like we were sharp. We hadn’t played all that great. We were still making mistakes here and missing guys there, so you can bet tomorrow in our film session we’ll have a lot of correcting to do. But I thought our kids made some big plays and stepped it up and really our offensive and defensive lines took over.”
— Those are areas where Tyrone may often have a sizeable advantage this season, and it was certainly one where they had an edge against the Blue Devils.
— The Eagles physically dominated Bellwood-Antis at the line of scrimmage, stopping B-A for negative yardage six times while running for 230 yards.
— B-A, meanwhile, managed only 57 yards rushing, a figure attributable to Tyrone’s defensive line in general and senior defensive tackle Terry Tate in particular. Tate had six tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack as the Devils found running between the hashes impossible.
— “It was a good thumping and I think our kids will get better from that,” said Bellwood-Antis coach John Hayes. “That’s our big key right now. We need to get up off our backs and get ready for the rest of our schedule.”
— “Our offensive line did a great job. They’re the strength of the team,” said Franco. “Early on, I didn’t think they came off the ball too well, but as the game went on they got a lot better.”
— It was Tyrone’s first win as a member of the Mountain Athletic Conference Nittany Division, and its first against B-A at home since 1998.
— Senior Brice Mertiff and junior Brit Mingle led Tyrone’s running attack, splitting carries and posting nearly identical numbers. Mingle toted the ball 14 times for 94 yards and scored four touchdowns, while Mertiff, playing under-the-weather and dehydrated according to Franco, had 14 carries for 91 yards and another rushing touchdown.
— Mertiff also made it into the endzone on a pass play with just over a minute to go before halftime when he hooked up with junior quarterback Leonard Wilson on a 19-yard pitch. For Wilson, it was his first touchdown pass of the season, and the last pass of any kind he would throw in the game after completing nine of 11 passes for 121 yards in the first half.
— Three of those passes went to Josh Crabtree, two to Trey Brockett, two to Mertiff, and two to Ben Gummo, highlighting the depth and balance in Tyrone’s offensive attack.
— Tyrone scored five times in the first half, beginning on its opening series, a 10-play, 66-yard drive that was going nowhere until on third-and-10 Crabtree hauled in a 19-yard pass to the B-A 47. Later in the series, on fourth-and-1 from the B-A 39, Mertiff broke free off left tackle and scampered 34 yards to the B-A five, and three plays later Mingle burst in from the one to give Tyrone a 7-0 lead.
— Tyrone’s next possession went 11 plays, beginning with 6:41 left in the first quarter and lasting until 11:55 of the second. Mingle and Mertiff carried eight times, and Wilson found Crabtree twice for nine-yard gains. Mingle eventually scored from five yards out and Ben Gummo’s kick made it 14-0.
— Each of the Blue Devils’ next three possessions ended in punts in four plays or less, and Tyrone answered them all with touchdown drives. A short field following a 10-yard punt return by Mertiff allowed for a 38-yard scoring drive early in the second quarter, capped by Mertiff’s nine-yard touchdown run making it 21-0.
— One possession later, Mingle scored his third touchdown on a six-yard run after Gummo and Wilson connected on a 46-yard bomb off play-action to set the table.
— Tyrone scored once more late in the half with a four-play drive consisting of four passes-two to Brockett and two to Mertiff totaling 46 yards and one touchdown.
— The Eagles’ last scoring drive came in the third quarter on their final series with their offensive starters in the game. Mertiff and Mingle split eight carries, and Mingle scored from five yards out to cap a 53-yard, four-minute drive.
— “As far as I’m concerned, Tyrone is what their ranking says,” said Hayes. “They are very good and very balanced all the way across the line. They have very good skill people, which allows them to do pretty much what they want to do.”
— B-A punched in two scores in the fourth quarter, the first coming on the heels of a monster series that took 12 plays and consumed more than seven minutes of game clock. Sophomore Josh Kleinfelter carried the bulk of the load, with four touches for 28 yards. Quarterback Zach Tomchick put an exclamation point on the possession with a 23-yard scramble for a touchdown on third down that put B-A on the board with 9:09 left in the game.
— B-A forced a turnover at the 16-yard line on Tyrone’s next play from scrimmage, and followed it up with a six-play scoring drive capped by Kleinfelter’s two-yard run to pay-dirt that set the final.
Grid Tidbits: Ralph VanAllman had a career-high two sacks… Tyrone sophomore Tyler Gillmen had two tackles and a blocked extra-point, in his first start… Tomchick completed 7 of 12 passes for 73 yards… Tyrone’s last victory over B-A at home was a 35-6 victory in 1998.