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Golden Eagles gets ready for annual Friday night fight against tough Bishop Guilfoyle

It’s never an easy time for the Tyrone Golden Eagles when Week 7 of the high school football season rolls around.
That’s because since 2003 Week 7 has meant a date with Bishop Guilfoyle, and while Tyrone has not lost to the Class A Marauders since the series was renewed four years ago, BG has played the Eagles as well as anyone on their schedule.
In 2003, when Tyrone lost just one game during a District championship season, it took a controversial last-minute pass interference penalty and a halfback pass to the quarterback to beat the Marauders by three.
In 2004 and 2005, when Tyrone fielded two of the more dominant teams of the John Franco Era, the Eagles struggled and held slim halftime leads over the Marauders before pulling away in the second half.
Initially, the buzz was that the game held too many distractions: in 2003, Franco was squaring off against his former coach and mentor Tom Irwin, who retired a year later. But Franco said the competitive nature of the typical Guilfoyle athlete is more likely the reason for the highly competitive series.
“The BG community is a community of hardworking people,” Franco said. “The perception there is that Altoona High always gets the best of everything and BG is forced to play second fiddle. So the attitude is that you’ve got to work harder for the things you want. The families that send their kids there are hardworking families who work hard to pay their tuition. These are hardworking, high-achieving kids.”
Franco would know. He graduated from the school in 1974, coached there for eight years starting in 1978, and until last year had his family in the school system before moving to the Tyrone borough in the summer of 2005.
So the sidelight of his personal involvement with the school and community is very real, but bears little weight on the outcome. Instead, Franco is looking at the X’s and O’s, particularly where they concern the Marauders’ quick defense and effective option offense.
Guilfoyle enters its game at Gray Veterans Memorial Field tomorrow (7 P.m.) 2-4 and battling for its playoff life. Before defeating Penns Valley 14-10 in Spring Mills last Friday, the Marauders had lost four in a row and were the victims of a string of second half collapses on offense.
But through it all, they ran the ball fairly well, and currently average 175 yards per game on the ground. Senior Jacob Librizzi is BG’s rushing leader with 465 yards and five touchdowns on 54 carries, while fullback Nic Perehenic has run for 260 yards on 64 carries.
“Jake is a really exciting player, and when he gets into the open field he can go,” said third-year Marauder coach Marty Georgiana. “Our quarterback Brent Milliron has run the offense like it’s supposed to be run, and our fullback, Nick Perehenic, has been very steady, running and blocking well. So I’m happy with the way our offense has played.”
The real problem for BG has been turnovers and finishing games. The Marauders have turned the ball over more than their opponents at a rate of 2-to-1 (20 turnovers, 10 takeaways), and over one three-game stretch earlier in the season they were outscored 61-7 in the second half.
“Turnovers have been a big thorn in our side. We know that this week it’s something we can’t do and expect to win,” Georgiana said.
Georgiana said he felt his team would have to play a near-perfect game to win against the Eagles, who enter the game 6-0 and ranked No. 5 in the state. A win would give Tyrone at least a share of their third straight MAC Nittany Division championship.
But Franco isn’t ready for his team to rest on its laurels. While he admits that his offense – which is averaging 32 points per game – has come along faster than expected, and that the defense is probably further along than the offense, he would like his team to remember what has gotten it to this point.
“We’ve put ourselves in the position we’re in because we’ve outworked teams,” he said. “As soon as we forget that and start patting ourselves on the back, we’ll fall back to a lower level.”
The Eagles enter the game on the heels of a 49-18 win last week at Bellefonte, when they forced seven turnovers and limited record-setting quarterback Ryan Poorman to 107 yards passing and five interceptions.
Tyler Golden threw for 170 yards and two scores, giving him 795 passing yards and eight touchdowns this season, while Tyler Gillmen and Johnny Franco each ran for over 100 yards.
Johnny Franco now has just over 700 rushing yards on 114 carries and Gillmen – after missing three games with mono – has 268 on 32.
Receiver Justin Schopp has hauled in 17 passes for 483 yards and Shayne Tate has emerged to catch five passes for 183 yards.
It amounts to an offense with enough explosive weapons that it has the time to wait a defense out to see exactly what it’s going to be given.
“We still have to be better on offense if we’re going to achieve our goals, but we’re getting better every week,” Franco said. “We’re good, but not nearly good enough to start tipping our caps.”
Tyrone’s defense, meanwhile, is surrendering just 7.5 points and 156 yards per game. The unit has forced 16 turnovers and recorded 18 sacks.
BG has struggled on the defensive side of the football, surrendering nearly 23 points per game, proving especially susceptible to the run. Four of the Marauders’ first six opponents ran for over 200 yards – with Quad A Central Mountain churning out 408 – contributing to BG’s 243-yards-allowed per game average.
Still, Franco sees BG’s run defense as a major hurdle for his team to overcome.
“Over the years, we have rushed for less against BG than any other team in our league,” he said. “They’re always tough against us defensively. They have tough kids, very similar to ours.”
State Recognition
Since Tyrone’s first run in the state playoffs in 1995, the Eagles have regularly found themselves ranked among the state’s top AA teams by the Harrisburg Patriot and the Pennsylvania Football News, rising as high as No. 1 on three occasions by the Patriot.
Franco pays little attention to rankings, but he said the Eagles’ current spot could be based more on reputation that fact.
“We’re fifth in the state more on name recognition than talent,” he said.
He also said he spoke to the team earlier in the week about not dwelling on rankings or what they have done, instead focusing on what they have left to do.
Latest Ranking
With that in mind, Franco may not be interested in the latest all-classification, statewide poll on MAXPreps.com. There, the Eagles are ranked No. 7 in Pennsylvania regardless of school size based on the site’s rating formula.
To see MaxPreps’ current rankings, log on to MaxPreps.com and click on “Pennsylvania” under the pull-down menu of “States.”