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Tyrone holds off Bellefonte 21-14 for important District Six win

Tyrone’s 21-14 win over Bellefonte last night was one of those ones Golden Eagle coach John Franco loves to have.
Playing on the road in a game where the Eagles were outrushed, outgained and physically pushed to the limits, they somehow found a way to win.
Tyrone scored 14 points in the second quarter and answered a long Bellefonte scoring drive in the third quarter with one of their own in the fourth to come away with its second straight win of the season, evening its record at 2-2.
The victory, which put Tyrone back into the Big 8 Conference hunt at 2-1, was the Eagles first road win since September 14, 2001, snapping a six-game skid.
But the win came with at a heavy cost. Golden Eagle senior linebacker-tight end Dan Grazier, a team captain who entered the game second on the squad in receiving yardage, went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter. He did not return to the game and was taken to Centre Community Hospital at halftime.
Grazier’s status, as of last night, was uncertain.
“It’s a killer because of the intangibles,” said Franco. “We’ve had so many injuries this year and so many setbacks, and we just have to find a way.”
With Grazier out, the Eagles immediately found themselves trying to find a way to stop Raider running back Corey Mislinski, who all but willed his team back into the game with a 29-carry, 127-yard performance. He gained 80 yards in the second half alone as Bellefonte controlled the line of scrimmage and made a game of what had been a 14-0 halftime lead for Tyrone.
“Mislinski’s a competitor,” said Bellefonte coach Tom Gravish. “We didn’t run the ball very well in the first half, and then when we did we would get a holding penalty and that changed the down and distance. It’s tough playing third-and-20s against a team like Tyrone.”
And it’s tough to play against any team when you turn the ball over. Bellefonte (2-2, 1-2) did that three times in the first half – all interceptions thrown by sophomore Josh Mundy – with one leading to a Tyrone touchdown.
But in a Big 8 Conference Franco has called the most balanced he’s seen in his nine years at Tyrone, there are no guarantees, and despite their sloppy first half, the Raiders put together sustained drives on all of their second half possessions and found themselves one errant on-sides kick away from possibly sending the game into overtime.
“Tyrone’s pretty good and we couldn’t get the ball away from them at the end,” said Gravish.
Bellefonte’s stingy defense limited Tyrone to a season-low 51 yards on the ground and registered 18 plays for zero or negative yardage.
In the absence of a consistent running game, quarterback Tyler Mertiff stepped forward to record arguably his most steady performance of the season. Mertiff completed 11 of 16 passes for 149 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Aaron Jeffries was on the receiving end of six of those passes for 87 yards and one touchdown.
The Eagles got their first score following a Jeffries interception early in the second quarter – one of two picked by the senior defensive back on the night. Tyrone took over at the B-42, and moved to the 15 two plays later follwing a pass interference penalty. Gummo ran for 11 on first down to the 4 and on second down scored from one yard out. His extra point gave Tyrone a 7-0 lead with 11:33 to go in the half.
Tyrone scored again later in the quarter on a six-play, 62-yard drive to go ahead 14-0. It started when quarterback Tyler Mertiff connected with Jeffries for 41 yards to the B-21. On third-and-8, Mertiff hit a tip-toeing Tommy Crowl down the right sideline for 13 yards to the B-6.
Two plays later, Mertiff and Jeffries hooked up again on a 5-yard pass for the touchdown that gave Tyrone a seemingly comfortable two-touchdown lead at intermission.
Bellefonte stormed back in the third quarter, driving 55 yards to the T-19 on their first possession, relying strictly on rushing plays to Mislinski. But two Mundy incompletions on third and fourth down turned the ball back over to Tyrone at 9:05 of the third.
Tyrone drove to the B-22 on the ensuing series, but Mertiff was sacked for a 14-yard loss on fourth down and the Raiders went back to work, this time driving 64 yards in 11 plays to pull within eight.
Bellefonte converted twice on third down on the series, and scored on a 12-yard fourth down pass from Mundy to an outstretched Matt Catherman with 14 second left in the third. Crowl blocked the PAT.
Tyrone matched the score with a 63-yard, 12-play drive that went 5:16 into the fourth quarter. The key play was a 20-yard completion from Mertiff to Josh Good that put the ball on the Raider 16. Four plays later, Tyler Mertiff pitched to Brice Mertiff on an option play for a 3-yard score and a 21-6 lead.
The Raiders answered with a four-minute, 68-yard scoring drive sprung by a 34-yard third down completion from Mundy to Josh Jones that pushed Bellefonte to the T-7. After a Max Soellner interception in the endzone was waived off on a defensive holding call, Mundy scored from the one to pull the Raiders within 21-12. Mundy connected with Jones in the flat for the two-point conversion and the Raiders trailed by a single score with 2:41 to play.
After Tyler Mertiff snagged the on-sides kick with one hand, Tyrone ran off five plays, including a crucial four-yard run on second-and-3 by Gummo, to run out the clock.
“They’re definitely improving each week,” said Franco. “Just look at the difference (between the Bellwood-Antis game and now). Tonight we had just one turnover and a couple of penalties. Each week, you see these younger guys growing and growing.”
GRID TIDBITS: Tyrone recorded four quarterback sacks, with Good and Blake Cowfer getting two apiece … Good had three tackles for losses … Franco credited sophomore Brandon Maceno with playing a “gutty” game at linebacker, filling in when Grazier was injured. Maceno had been nursing an ankle injury of his own and had not played in two weeks. Franco had planned to use him sparingly against Bellefonte … Mundy finished the game with 105 yards passing on 12-of-22 … Tyrone hosts Bald Eagle Area next Friday.
Tyrone 21, Bellefonte 14
Score by quarter
Tyrone – 0 14 0 7 -21
Bellefonte – 0 0 6 8 -14
Scoring summary
second quarter
T- Gummo 1 run (Gummo kick) 10:28
T- Jeffries 5 pass from T. Mertiff (Gummo kick) 4:48
third quarter
B- Catherman 12 pass from Mundy (Kick blocked) 0:14
fourth quarter
T- B. Mertiff 3 run (Gummo kick) 6:44
B- Mislinski 1 run (Jones pass from Mundy) 2:41
Team Statistics
T B
First Downs 16 11
Rushes 36 36
Rush yards 51 118
Pass Att. 16 22
Pass Comp. 11 12
Pass Yards 149 105
Interceptions 0 3
Fumbles lost 1 0
Penalty yards 4-40 9-79
Punts/Avg. 4-27 3-30.6
Total Offense 200 223
Individual Statistics
Rushing
Tyrone: Gummo 13-51 (1TD), B. Mertiff 13-32 (1TD), T. Mertiff 10-(-31)
Bellefonte: Mislinski 29-127 (1TD), Mundy (-9).
Passing
Tyrone: T. Mertiff 11-16, 149, 1 TD, 0 Int.
Bellefonte: Mundy 12-22, 105, 1TD, 3 Int.
Receiving
Tyrone: Jeffries 6-87 (1TD), Crowl 3-36, Good 1-20, Gummo 1-6.
Bellefonte: Goldman 5-12, Jones 4-73, Catherman 1-10, (1TD) Smeltzer 1-6, Mislinski 1-4.