Short spurt turns battle into rout; Johnny Franco grounds Blue Devils
GAME ONE Tyrone Golden Eagles: 16 B-A Blue Devils: 0 Friday, September 1, 2006 • Gray Memorial Field • Tyrone, Pennsylvania
By Kerry Naylor | Daily Herald Sports Writer
— Tyrone coach John Franco would probably be the first to admit that—as far as the media goes—he’s much more likely to deliver a cliche than a sound bite.
— But after the Eagles’ 16-0 win over Bellwood-Antis at Gray Veterans Memorial Field last night in the annual Backyard Brawl, the coach who has made a career of revealing as little as possible was quite poignant in summing up the game.
— “This was an emotional game on both sides, for different reasons,” said Franco. “They were playing with the weight of losing one of their coaches and we were playing with a couple of kids on the sideline who may not be able to play again this season.”
— The end result was a game that featured sporadic bursts of energy and commotion, but in the end was decided by a six-minute segment midway through the second quarter when the Eagles found a way to capitalize on two B-A miscues and tilt the field in their advantage. And it was amazing how quickly things spiraled out of control for the Devils.
— A fumble led to a Tyrone touchdown. A mishandled kick opened the gates for a safety.
— The ensuing kick was returned 57 yards to set up another score.
— Before the Blue Devils could blink, they were down 16, and the complexion of the game was irrevocably altered. It shifted the Devils’ offensive focus away from the legs of star running back Josh Kleinfelter and placed it squarely on the arm of quarterback Evan Hughes. Especially in the second half, when the rain pounded harder and the ball became slicker, the task may have been too much to ask of even Ben Roethlisberger.
— “When we went into the locker down 16-0, our demeanor changed,” said Bellwood-Antis coach John Hayes. “But it wasn’t just what we did to ourselves. It was what Tyrone did, too. They probably felt they had something to prove.”
— One thing the Eagles proved is that even without seniors Tyler Gillmen and Doug Morrow, whose seasons were placed in jeopardy after suffering serious preseason injuries, Tyrone’s defense is still as tough as they come. Tackle Tyler Hoover and linebacker James Updike led the way, but critical contributions from fresher faces—like Josh Bradley and Jason Reese—made the biggest impact.
— The Eagles forced four turnovers and sacked Hughes three times while limiting Kleinfelter—a 2,000-yard rusher in 2005—to 80 yards on 21 carries. The ending of B-A’s six first-half series told the story of the Devils’ offensive woes: punt, fumble, punt, fumble, safety, turnover on downs.
— “Players like Jordan Good, Jason Reese, Donnie Conrad, and Russell Beck really played their hearts out tonight,” Franco said. “We won with Tyrone spirit and played up to the next level.”
— Franco’s son Johnny demonstrated some heart as well. As the Eagles No. 1 option in the absence of Gillmen, Franco lugged the ball 24 times for 163 yards—both career highs—and scored the Eagles’ first touchdown. He also delivered a couple bone-crunching hits in the secondary before exiting the game in the fourth quarter with cramps.
— In his first varsity start, Tyler Golden managed to complete only 1 of 8 passes for 9 yards, but that lone connection gave him the first touchdown pass of his career and catapulted Tyrone to its double-digit halftime lead.
— As the winning team, Tyrone was presented the Backyard Brawl trophy, a new traveling trophy sponsored by the Tyrone Chamber of Commerce to be kept annually by the game’s winner. When the presentation was complete, B-A and Tyrone players gathered at the 30-yard line to pray together for the loss of Randy Miller, the longtime Blue Devil coach who on Tuesday succumbed to cancer.
— “That was a tribute to a great person and his entire family,” Franco said. “We may overemphasize the game, but sometimes you’re reminded that it’s not as important as life.”
— “When the game is going on, it’s a war, it’s a battle—but you realize that when it’s over you're going to wake up the next morning and move on,” Hayes said. “It showed great sportsmanship and respect on both sides.”
— Tyrone jumped in front in the second quarter after Updike corralled a mishandled exchange from center at the Devils' 27-yard line. The Eagles ran the ball six straight times, converting once on third-and-5 when Franco spun out of a tackle in the backfield for an 8-yard gain. Three plays later he went in from the five, and Johnny Shaffer’s kick made it 7-0.
— Shaffer squibbed the ensuing kickoff and it went through two sets of hands before Kleinfelter snatched it up near his own goal line, but he could advance the ball only to B-A’s 14. An illegal procedure call backed the Devils up to their own 9. Two plays later, Tyler Hoover burst through the line to latch onto Hughes in the endzone for a safety that made it 9-0.
— On B-A’s free kick, Franco picked up a mishandled ball and cut through a wall of Blue Devil defenders, taking it 57 yards to the 13.
— On second-and-6 from the 9, Golden zipped a pass to tight end Donnie Conrad down a seam in the middle of B-A’s defense, and Conrad blasted into the endzone for the score that made it 16-0.
— “The punt (on the free kick) should have given us momentum,” said Hayes. “The ball was on the ground and we could have put ourselves in great field position, but instead Tyrone got a nice return and shifted momentum.”
— The Eagles nearly put the game away coming out of the locker room when they took the second half kick and marched 51-yards in 10 plays to the B-A 19, but a Franco fumble was recovered by Blaze Winterstein to thwart the drive.
— The Devils had several opportunities later in the second half to get on the board, but each time the Eagles turned them away. B-A drove to the Tyrone 15 with a minute to go in the third quarter, but a fourth down pass attempt by Hughes was batted away at the line of scrimmage by Hoover.
— After a Justin Schopp pick ended B-A’s next advance, Shane Emigh put a stop to another, which had moved to the 15-yard line, with another interception with three minutes to play.
— The Devils’ final possession went as far as the five-yard line, but a sack by Reese pushed it back to the 11 and B-A turned the ball over on downs.
GAME NOTES: Chad Coho had a fumble recovery for B-A… Devon Clapper finished with 4 receptions for 39 yards and two rushes for 15 yards… Hughes completed 10 of 25 passes for 103 yards… Johnny Franco had Tyrone’s other fumble recovery… the win was the Eagles’ fourth straight over B-A since 2002, which was also the last time B-A had 100 yards rushing against Tyrone… Franco has now scored a touchdown in 11 of his first 12 games… the Eagles Travel to Huntingdon next week, while B-A hosts Penns Valley.