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Tyrone defense shuts out Panthers, comes up with two scores

First TD Levi Reihart, (6) sophomore Tyrone quarterback rounds the right side with Brock Anders (54) in convoy for his young QB, as Reihart scores the first touchdown of his varsity career in Friday night’s 35-0 Tyrone victory over Lewistown at Gray-Vets Memorial Field. Matt Murray (52) looks for someone to block on the right. (The Daily Herald/Steve Michaels)

Junior lineman Matt Murray’s analysis of Tyrone’s dominance on defense through five games this season is incredibly simple, and incredibly effective, especially when you consider the state of the Golden Eagles’ evolving offense.
“The fewer points we allow, the less we have to score,” Murray said last night after Tyrone’s 35-0 demolition of the Lewistown Panthers at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field.
The philosophy makes a lot of sense, particularly when you take into account that Tyrone is playing nine new offensive starters and is going week-to-week on the playing status of last year’s leading rusher Johnny Franco. It’s a situation that has forced the Eagles to learn on the fly when it comes to moving the football.
The solution for the Eagles has been to keep teams out of the end zone and, truth be told, it’s working pretty well. The Eagles’ shutout last night was their third of the season, as the Panthers became the fourth team to walk away from a game against Tyrone without scoring a touchdown.
“Our defense has been carrying us,” Tyrone coach John Franco said.
It looked especially good against Lewistown’s spread offense, which came in averaging 261 yards per game. Tyrone forced four turnovers – three on interceptions – stopped eight plays for losses and sacked quarterback Connor Muir four times.
And for the second straight game, the Eagles turned their defense into offense as Brandon Gehret returned his second interception for a touchdown with a 55-yard return early in the second quarter.
“I saw that all three receivers on my side were doing hitches,” Gehret said. “I was just coming in to make the tackle and the ball landed in my arms.”
It looked a little bit more difficult than that, but the play was exemplary of how easy the Eagles made a shutout look against the Panthers. Although Lewistown ran 51 offensive plays, they only seriously threatened to score once, driving as far as Tyrone’s 9 after an Eagle turnover. But that march ended when Scott Brown missed a 24-yard field goal at the 4:01 mark of the first quarter.
However, for all of Tyrone’s defensive fireworks, the Eagles’ offense was just as dominant. Senior Shayne Tate again rushed for 100 yards (135 on 15 carries), and sophomore Levi Reihart continued to develop at quarterback, completing 4 of 7 passes for 99 yards without throwing an interception.
“I saw some good signs this week,” Franco said. “Our offensive line blocked well. We made some mistakes early but were able to correct things. We’re just a young, inexperienced team.”
The Golden Eagles remained perfect at 5-0 and improved to 4-0 in the Nittany Division, setting a season-high point total for the second straight week.. Lewistown dropped to 1-4 and 1-3 in the division.
Johnny Franco came in on Tyrone’s second offensive possession and played two series. He broke off an 18-yard run and finished with 27 yards on four carries, but left in the first quarter and spent the rest of the game with ice on his left ankle. He returned from halftime on crutches.
\”We just don’t know at this point,\” coach Franco said of his son’s injury.
Johnny Franco was limping noticeably on his second series, and appeared unable to cut on his final two touches. Coach Franco said trainer Tracey Mickey made the call to keep him out the rest of the game, and he supported her decision.
“It’s frustrating, but as frustrated as I am, he’s probably double,” Franco said.
Still, Tyrone’s rushing game was as potent as ever. The Eagles gained 212 yards on the ground, with six runs of 10 yards or more.
The Eagles’ first score came on a seven-play drive that featured six running plays, but the biggest was a 34-yard screen pass from Reihart to Shane Emigh that moved the ball from the Tyrone 42 to Lewistown’s 24. Five plays later, Reihart dropped back to pass, eluded a tackler in the pocket, and sprinted 11 yards for his first varsity score to make it 7-0.
The Golden Eagles fumbled after three plays on their next series and went three-plays-and-out twice after that, but they lit the scoreboard again on Gehret’s interception to go ahead 14-0 with 10:08 to go until halftime.
“That was a big momentum shift,” Lewistown coach Allen Muir said. “You can’t make mistakes like that against good teams. We’ve been snake-bitten. It seems like we take two steps forward and two steps back.”
The Panthers took two big steps back on their next possession when, after advancing to Tyrone’s 31, Johnny Shaffer dropped Charles Lyter for a 2-yard loss on third down before sacking Connor Muir for a 4-yard loss on fourth down.
The Eagles made it 21-0 before halftime with a 9-play, 67-yard drive ignited by a 39-yard pass-run combination from Reihart to Jesse Walk. On fourth-and-goal from the one, Mark Mingle plowed into the end zone at the 1:48 mark.
On Tyrone’s first play of the second half, Tate burst through a hole in the middle of the Panther’s defensive line and raced untouched for a 67-yard touchdown to make it 28-0.
“Our linemen blocked really well all night,” said Tate, who has now run for 704 yards. “Matt Murray and Josh Bradley did a great job on the traps. Everybody did a great job.”
Tyrone’s final score was set up by an interception by Walk. Emigh blasted Muir on a corner blitz forcing an errant pass that Walk returned 25 yards to the Panthers’ 30. After a 28-yard screen pass to Mingle set Tyrone up at the 12, Tate went in from 2 yards out three plays later.
“Anytime you come up short on an opportunity, it’s tough,” coach Muir said. “It’s frustrating for the defense. But we’ve got to try to stay together as a team.”
It’s a simple approach that Muir hopes will guide his team through the rest of what’s becoming a long season. If it can work as well as Murray’s plain approach, all may not be lost for the Panthers yet.
“We just want it more than our opponent,” said Murray. “We’re getting better every week.”
GRID TIDBITS: Walk and Ross Black each recorded sacks, while Murray and Jordan Good teamed up on another … Larry Glace had Tyrone’s third interception, and Cody Smith came away with a fourth quarter fumble recovery … the Eagles have forced 16 turnovers … Connor Muir finished 11-for-18 for 129 yards.
Tyrone 35 Lewistown 0
TYRONE 7 14 14 0 – 35
LEWISTOWN 0 0 0 0 – 0
Team Statistics
T L
1st Downs 11 11
Yards Rushing 212 68
Pass Att.-Comp. 4-7 12-19
Yards Passing 99 136
Total Offense 311 200
Int. By 3 0
Fum. Rec. 1-1 1-1
Punts-Avg. 3-32.6 2-40
Individual Statistics
RUSHING
TYRONE – Tate 15-135; Franco 4-27; Barlett 5-45; Reihart 2-11; Mingle 4-7; Gault 4-7; Walker 1-0; Stansbury 2-(-2); Team 1-(-12).
LEWISTOWN – Muir 11-29; Lyter 14-29; Jerzerick 4-8; Moist 1-4; Madden 2-(-2).
PASSING
TYRONE- Reihart 4-7-99, 0 TD, 0 Int.
LEWISTOWN – Muir 11-18-129, 0 TD, 3 Int.; Madden 1-1-3, 0 TD, 0 Int.
RECEIVING
TYRONE – Walk 1-39; Emigh 1-34; Mingle 1-28; Franco 1-(-2).
LEWISTOWN – Haines 4-70; Shank 4-34; R. Klinger 2-16; Marzoni 2-12.