Bishop Guilfoyle out to continue win streak against Golden Eagles Saturday

If you’re a small-school team in Central Pennsylvania with the misfortune to start the campaign 0-2, you immediately reach a critical point in your season.
Lose one more, and you can say good-bye to the postseason, because in District 6, it’s almost impossible for a Class A or AA team to backdoor its way into the playoffs after a slow start. So you’re left with a choice: go through the motions until basketball season, or come out swinging and fight for your postseason life.
The Bishop Guilfoyle Marauders chose the latter in Week 3 when, at 0-2, they trailed Delone Catholic 14-0 on the road in the fourth quarter. Using a pair of trick plays – including a daring fake on the extra-point of what could have been the game-tying touchdown – the Marauders rallied to win 15-14 and set in motion what has grown into a four-game winning streak.
Now 4-2, and still unbeaten in the MAC Nittany Division at 3-0, the Marauders host Tyrone on Saturday at Mansion Park (7 p.m.) in a game BG coach Marty Georgiana said his team has been aiming for since stumbling out of the gate.
“When you’re 0-2, you just take things one game at a time, but after that happened we set a goal that we would get to this point,” he said. “The players are excited for it. They’re excited to play in a big game.”
Big games are nothing new to the undefeated Eagles, who hold a half-game lead in the division at 4-0. After opening the season with victories over traditional rivals Bellwood-Antis and Huntingdon, the Eagles faced a Lewistown team that was still unbeaten in Week 3, budding nemesis Philipsburg-Osceola in Week 5, and undefeated Bellefonte last week in the MAC’s game of the year.
In each scenario, Tyrone was up to the challenge, but Franco said he still put special emphasis this week on ensuring his players avoid a big-game hangover following their 41-6 win over the Red Raiders.
“We won a big game last week, but we have to get over it,” he said. “There’s a lot riding on our game this week. We want to win our conference, and I think if we win we guarantee ourselves of at least a 2-seed in the playoffs. We’re trying to reach certain goals and we can’t take a step backwards.
“But this is a team that has been pretty good with that. They have treated every game with a high priority.”
That’s due in large part to a strong senior class, which includes the likes of captains Leonard Wilson, Robert Emigh, Brinton Mingle and Trey Brockett, four players with experience on championship teams. Franco has a little to do with it, as well.
“If we’re not ready, that’s my fault,” he said. “I’ve never been a business-as-usual person. Each game is like a separate season.”
Much of Tyrone’s preparation this week has centered on limiting the effectiveness of Tom Seasoltz, BG’s multi-talented quarterback who is just beginning to come into his own as the catalyst of the Marauders’ option attack. While he struggled through the first three weeks of the season (165 yards passing, 82 yards rushing on 32 attempts), he’s turned things around over the last three, and BG’s offense has benefited.
From Week 4 on, Seasoltz has completed 18 of 29 passes for 347 yards, while rushing for another 202 on 30 carries. In last week’s 34-6 win over Penns Valley, he completed 11 of 14 passes for 228 yards, while gaining 90 on the ground.
“He’s a good kid and a very good athlete,” said Georgiana. “Over the last two to three weeks, he’s gotten more comfortable running the option. He’s starting to see the field and play with more confidence.”
Seasoltz is complemented by a pair of running backs that Franco spoke very highly of in fullback Nick Perehinec (314 yards on 65 carries) and Sean McConnell (244 yards on 71 carries), as well as a big-play receiver in Ryan Craig.
“They have a very nice, well-balanced offense,” Franco said.
But Tyrone has made a lot of well-balanced, highly-skilled offenses look terribly inadequate this season, none more so than Bellefonte’s last Saturday. With a relentless pass rush and a decided advantage in team speed, the Golden Eagles took an offense averaging over 30 points per game and limited it to one breakaway touchdown in the third quarter. Leading rusher Josh Gentzel, who had been averaging more than 160 yards per game, never got untracked and finished with just 74.
“We went to the option offense because we thought that with our kids and their size, it would give us the best chance to compete against bigger teams,” Georgiana said. “We’ll find out. Tyrone knows what we do and we know they’ll prepare for it.’
What a Rush
One reason Tyrone has been more successful this season than in years past against the mobile, do-it-all quarterbacks like Huntingdon’s Kyle Kyper and Bellefonte’s Chris Snare has been the tremendous amount of defensive pressure they’ve created from a variety of angles. The Eagles already have 20 quarterback sacks, well ahead of their pace in 2004, which netted 25 in 14 games.
Creating that kind of pressure will be important against Seasoltz, who Franco said was “the kind of mobile quarterback that has given us trouble.”
Junior James Updike leads the Eagles with 10 tackles for loss, including 4.5 sacks. Emigh is the team’s sack leader with five.
Wilson enters the game needing just 14 yards to become the school’s all-time leader in passing yardage. Currently, Wilson has 2,873, putting him just behind Tyler Mertiff, who threw for 2,886 yards in two seasons as the Eagles’ starting quarterback from 2001-2002.
Just two games ago, Wilson became Tyrone’s leader in career touchdown passes when he completed his 28th career scoring pass against Philipsburg-Osceola.
For his career, the three-year starter has now completed 193 of 365 passes for 2,873 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Like Playing Family
When Tyrone renewed the Bishop Guilfoyle series in 2003 after a hiatus of more than two decades, it was a difficult situation for Franco, who coached at BG, sent his children to school there, and had significant ties to the Guilfoyle community.
Franco admitted that the difficulty is compounded a bit this season because his son Johnny – after a stellar junior high career for the Marauders – is now a sophomore playing for Tyrone following his family’s move to the borough last summer.
Franco said the situation makes for an interesting sidelight, but it doesn’t take away from his desire to win.
“It’s like competing against your family,” he said. “I care for my family more than anything, but when I play my brother in one-on-one I want to beat him. It actually makes you more passionate about winning.
“But it’s definitely a strange situation. Most of the coaches on their staff now played for me, and half of the team has been to my house because they’re friends with my son.”
NOTES: Brinton Mingle gained a career-high last week with 166 yards rushing against Bellefonte. He leads Tyrone with 631 yards and 11 touchdowns on 112 carries … junior Tyler Gillmen continued to make the most of his opportunities against the Red Raiders. He touched the ball only six times, but he averaged seven yards per rush, caught a pass for 23 yards and scored on a 4-yard run. Gillmen is averaging 9.8 yards every time he touches the ball … Johnny Franco has scored a touchdown in every game this season and is currently second on the team with 42 points.