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Undefeated Golden Eagles journey to Wingate to play winless Bald Eagle Area; Franco ready to play

Jarrod Good Jesse Walk

For anyone who was happy to see the Penns Valley Rams roll out of Tyrone last Friday, content that the Eagles had survived a scare, there’s some bad news.
Tyrone’s next opponent was molded from the same cookie cutter.
So if last week’s game against the Rams didn’t do it for you – if a straight-ahead, basic rushing attack and stick-it-in-your ear defense isn’t your cup of tea – you may want to think twice about making that trip to Wingate when the Eagles face Bald Eagle Area Friday at 7 p.m.
But if you’re looking for some incentive to stop by, here’s a little nugget: senior Johnny Franco may see his first action of the season after being cleared by doctors on Monday, according to his father, head coach John Franco. Johnny Franco was able to begin participating in running drills on Monday, coach Franco said, and has steadily progressed to the point where playing a snap or two against BEA is now quite possible.
“The doctor assured us there’s no further risk of injury,” coach Franco said. “He thinks he could be 80 percent by Friday. The biggest problem is how painful it is, but that’s gotten better every day this week. So we’re cautiously optimistic.”
In his absence, Tyrone has been pretty good – undefeated at 3-0, atop the MAC Nittany Division with a 2-0 record, and boasting a defense that has allowed three points all season.
With numbers like those, his return is most likely something BEA coach John Bathurst would like to delay for at least another week. After all, it was against BEA last season that running back Tyler Gillmen made his return from an early-season absence and scored three touchdowns while accumulating 132 yards of total offense in a 35-14 victory.
“Obviously, our kids know him and have seen him in basketball and track, and they know what kind of athlete he is,” said Bathurst. “We have to expect that he will be playing, but Tyrone is more than just Johnny Franco. They’re allowed to have 11 guys on the field, and so are we.”
So far, BEA’s 11 has been competitive, but not successful in terms of wins and losses. Bald Eagle is 0-3 after last week’s 27-22 loss to Lewistown, and it’s averaging just 18 points per game. Its defense is allowing 19 points per game, and it hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher yet this season.
“They’re one tough defense, and we know they’ll be a challenge,” said Franco. “They’re almost identical to Penns Valley, and they have eight starters back.”
BEA’s proclivity for stopping the run makes for an interesting match up against Tyrone, which has run the ball as well as anyone this season, even without their 1,600-yard rusher from a year ago.
Behind senior Shayne Tate – a receiver who has filled in for Franco all three games this season – the Eagles are averaging 240 rushing yards per game. Tate has rushed for 516 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 8.7 yards per carry.
“They’re the same as they’ve ever been,” said Bathurst. “They’re very good. Franco reloads so quickly. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
But it hasn’t been easy, and it certainly wasn’t easy last week in a 10-3 win over the Rams, a game in which Tyrone was flagged nine times and had two touchdowns called back in penalties.
“We’ve addressed it,” Franco said of his team’s penalties.
Bald Eagle’s problem hasn’t been penalties, but turnovers. In a 10-0 loss to Penns Valley, two BEA turnovers led directly to scores, and last week against the Panthers, a snap over the punter’s head set up another.
“Even though they’re 0-3, we can’t take them lightly,” said Franco. “They’ve been one play away in each game from being 3-0. Our kids realize that if they’re not better this week, they’ll have a tough time winning this game.”
One reason Bald Eagle has been in every game has been the play of running back Justin Koleno, who last week set a single-game school record with 297 yards on 33 carries. For the season, he’s rushed for 434 yards, an average of 144.6 yards per game.
“He’s got enough shiftiness that if you give him a crack, he can make guys miss,” said Bathurst. “And he has enough speed that he can score if he can get outside. I never even realized last week how many yards he had, but I’ll tell you what: he would trade them all to win that game.”
Franco is hoping that his defense, which allowed 200 yards rushing against Valley last week, can rebound against BEA.
“We made big plays when we needed them, but that was probably the worst defense we’ve played all season,” Franco said. “Our great desire brought us through in the end. Different guys came through, whether it was Nick Wilson, Shayne Tate, Shane Emigh, Larry Glace or Johnny Shaffer. Our backs were to the wall and we were able to rise to the occasion. We benefited from that.”
Emigh Stepping Up
With Johnny Franco out, other players have been forced to take on additional roles. One who has adjusted well has been Shane Emigh, a senior wide receiver-defensive back.
In his first season as an offensive starter, Emigh has found a variety of ways to ignite the Eagles’ offense. As a receiver, he’s caught 6 passes for 73 yards, including a key 13-yard reception on third down on Tyrone’s first series last week that kept alive a drive that resulted in the game’s only touchdown.
He’s also run the ball 6 times for 59 yards and a 17-yard touchdown.
In Week 1, it was his work on defense that got things rolling for Tyrone when he stripped a ball and ran 20-yards for a score.
“Early in the season we identified him as someone who could be a playmaker,” said Franco. “He’s proven us correct.”
NOTES: Ben Ingle’s fumble recovery last week gave Tyrone 9 takeaways this season, an average of 3 per game … the Eagles were 1-for-2 in the red zone against Penns Valley. A missed field goal in the second quarter was the first time this season Tyrone failed to score inside an opponent’s 20 … BEA hasn’t beaten Tyrone since 1994, Franco’s first season … sophomore Levi Reihart started the game against Valley completing three straight passes. He finished 6-for-11 for 36 yards … Reihart also averaged 37.5 yards on four punts, including a long of 46.