Eagles show depth in shutout victory over Panthers

Tyrone junior running back Johnny Franco, son of the Eagles’ heavyweight head coach, beamed as he stood near the 40-yard line of a cleared-out Mitchell Stadium in Lewistown last night.
The Golden Eagles had just defeated Lewistown 27-0 to remain undefeated at 3-0 and Franco had eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the third straight week, gaining 123 on 25 carries while scoring three times.
But that wasn’t what prompted his ear-to-ear grin.
Instead, what had him smiling was the thought of teammate Tyler Gillmen rejoining him in the backfield after missing the first three games with an illness. His return to the lineup would most likely shave down Franco’s carries, but it would also provide some much needed depth and experience for the Eagles, who last night alone were playing without four players who were No. 1 or 2 at their positions on the preseason depth chart.
“I can’t wait to get Gillmen back,” said Franco, who has rushed for 412 yard and scored seven touchdowns this season. “Carries don’t matter to me and yards don’t matter as long as we’re winning. When we get him back, that’s double what we have now. And he’s faster than me, so I’m sure he’ll do even better.”
Still, without Gillmen, without Doug Morrow, without Johnny Barlett, without Aaron DeLay – the Eagles persevered one more week. And while coach John Franco said he wasn’t pleased with his team’s execution – which included a season-high six penalties – he was more than satisfied with the effort he received from a unit that seems to get less experienced every week.
Last night, for example, senior receiver Russell Beck saw the most extensive action of his career, while sophomores Matt Murray and Mark Mingle rotated in at guard and fullback, respectively. So while Tyrone will have to wait at least another week to get Gillmen back – and even longer for Morrow – it seems that for now they’ll just have to make do with Franco, quarterback Tyler Golden, and a defense that has allowed just one touchdown.
“One of the keys to our team is we have a bunch of seniors who have never started before, so they’re hungry,” said coach Franco. “They’ve waited two years for their turn, and now they have one last shot. When you have one last shot and your back’s to the wall, you come out playing like a crazy person because you know this is it.”
Golden is one of those seniors, and he continued his strong play against the Panthers, completing 7 of 12 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown. Six of his completions went to senior Justin Schopp, who finished with 125 receiving yards.
“Schopp and Golden are getting better every week,” said coach Franco. “That’s what we need because we’re a work in progress.”
Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles’ defense put together another dominating performance, stopping nine plays in Lewistown’s backfield, while sacking quarterback Connor Muir five times. The Panthers mustered just 97 yards in total offense, 61 of which came on their final series.
Senior Jason Reese had a career-high three sacks as the Panthers crossed the 50-yard line only once.
“I liked the effort tonight,” said coach Franco. “Anytime you have effort like that, we’ll correct the mistakes.”
Tyrone got on the board on its second series – a 53-yard drive that took just under two minutes. Golden connected with Schopp on third-and-nine for a 17-yard gain to the Lewistown 16, and from there Johnny Franco exploded straight up the gut for Tyrone’s first touchdown. The extra-point was blocked, but the Eagles led 6-0.
Lewistown moved as far as its own 44 on its next possession but Tyler Hoover slammed Chris McClellan for a four-yard loss and two plays later Reese sacked Muir for minus-8. The Panthers were forced to punt the ball away, and Tyrone went back to work.
Taking over at their own 14, the Eagles drove 86 yards on seven plays to go up 12-0. The key plays of the drive came on a 24-yard scamper by Franco and a 48-yard pass that Golden lofted to a diving Schopp at the Lewistown 3. Franco scored from the 2 two plays later on the first play of the second quarter.
“It’s all the offensive line,” said Johnny Franco. “I know everyone says it’s the line, but it’s true. Our fullbacks have been playing good, too. Johnny Barlett was doing a great job, but he got hurt and now Shayne Tate stepped up for us.”
Tate finished with 43 yards on nine carries switching from fullback to tailback, while Mingle gained 39 on six carries.
Tyrone scored once more in the second on a nine-yard run by Franco that capped a six-play, 65-yard drive. The Eagles picked up 23 of those yards on a screen pass from Golden to Franco to set the table, and after Schopp converted the two-point conversion on a fake PAT attempt led 20-0 at halftime.
The Golden Eagles closed the door on their first possession of the second half, marching 55 yards on 13 plays for another score. Golden hooked up with Schopp twice on the drive, once for 15 yards on third-and-seven, and again for a five-yard touchdown with 2:26 left in the period. Johnny Shaffer’s PAT set the final.
“If we can get our health back, we’ll be okay,” coach Franco said.
GAME NOTES: Tyrone outgained Lewistown 374-97 … Shaffer registered his fourth sack of the season in the third quarter … Golden was sacked for the first time this season in the second … the Panthers were stopped for 38 yards in losses, while their leading rusher, Nick Knable, totaled 46 … Lewistown falls to 0-3 … Schopp has 263 receiving yards over the last two games … the Eagles have outscored their first three opponents 78-13 … Tyrone hosts Bald Eagle Area next Friday, while Lewistown travels to Huntingdon.
TYRONE 6 14 6 0 – 27
LEWISTOWN 0 0 0 0 – 0
First Quarter
T – Franco 16 run (Kick blocked) 5:25
Second Quarter
T – Franco 2 run (Pat failed) 11:55
T – Franco 9 run (Schopp run) 4:25
Third Quarter
T – Golden 5 pass to Schopp (Shaffer kick) 2:26
First Downs 18 7
Rushing Yards 226 51
Pass Att.-Comp. 7-12 6-15
Passing Yards 148 46
Total Yards 374 97
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Interceptions 0 0
Penalties/Yards 6-25 4-25
Punts-Avg. 3-27.3 7-43.5
TYRONE – Franco 25-123; Tate 9-43; Mingle 6-39; Golden 3-12; Crowell 3-11; Riehart 1-(-2).
LEWISTOWN – Knable 11-46; McClellan 8-10; McMahon 4-23; Goss 1-2; Muir 5-(-30).
TYRONE – Golden 7-12-148, 1 TD, 0 Int.
LEWISTOWN – Muir 6-15-46, 0 TD, 0 Int.
TYRONE – Schopp 6-125; Franco 1-23.
LEWISTOWN – Haines 3-27; Knable 1-1; McKay 1-13; Gregg 1-5.