|Shane Emigh Two TDs on Defense||Shayne Tate Three TDs|
Tyrone will have two weeks off before starting the District 6-AA playoffs, but from the sounds of it, very little of that time will be spent basking in the glow of the team’s third consecutive unbeaten season, which it secured last night with a 47-13 pummeling of Central at Roaring Spring Athletic Field.
That’s how coach John Franco would want it. And when prodded for his reaction to the Eagles’ unprecedented run over the past three seasons, he was less than forthcoming in his answer.
“We have one focus,” Franco said. “We’ve come so close the last two years. We’re 9-0, but we’ve been that before. We want to do what no one thought we could do, and that’s win the thing.”
Franco was referring to the District 6 championship, a crown that has eluded two talented Tyrone teams the last two seasons, and the sting of those losses is enough to numb Franco and the Eagles to any accomplishments outside of the post-season.
But Central coach A.J. Hoenstine found Tyrone’s accomplishment pretty special.
“That’s unbelievable – three undefeated seasons in a row,” Hoestine said. “They find a way to do it.”
Last night, they did it with defense. The Golden Eagles forced five turnovers, including four picks of Chris Kurtz, who went in as the leading passer in the Nittany Division, and limited the Dragons to 9 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Shane Emigh returned one interception for a 40-yard touchdown to start the second half, and returned a fumble recovery 74 yards for a score in the first quarter.
They were the kind of plays that made some of the final numbers deceiving. Central ran 47 plays to Tyrone’s 38 and passed for 206 yards, but the Eagles led 7-0 after their first possession, 35-0 at halftime, and was never threatened by Central’s heralded passing offense.
“That’s a high-risk offense,” Franco said. “You can get some large gains, but you also get opportunities (defensively). We knew we had to rush the quarterback.. I think the pass rush is what was the cause of the interceptions.”
The Eagles sacked Kurtz four times as part of nine plays that went for zero or negative yardage.
When not flexing its muscle on defense, Tyrone was battering Central with its running game, which produced 193 yards. Shayne Tate led the Eagles with 70 yards on 8 carries in limited action, pushing him over the 1,300-yard mark for the season.
“They came in, and Tyrone does what Tyrone does,” Hoenstine said.
The win allowed Tyrone (9-0) to finish unbeaten in back-to-back seasons for the fourth time in school history and the third time under Franco. It’s the first time a Tyrone team has ever gone unbeaten in three consecutive seasons, giving the football class of 2008 a 28-0 record in the regular season.
They also captured their fourth consecutive MAC Nittany Division championship (5-0).
“I couldn’t be prouder of a group,” said Franco. “They’ve played their hearts out. We’re not the biggest team, we’re not the fastest, we’re not the strongest, but we play hard.”
The Eagles hit paydirt on their first possession, despite being flagged three times for illegal procedure penalties. Tate ignited the drive with a 41-yard to the Central 24, but after moving to the 11, back-to-back false starts had Tyrone facing a third-and-23 from its own 24.
Their answer was a middle screen to Tate, who scampered to the five before breaking through traffic and cutting back into the end zone. The first of Johnny Shaffer’s five PAT kicks made it 7-0.
Tate halted Central’s ensuing series with an interception, which he returned 34 yards to the Dragons’ 25. A 17-yard completion from Levi Reihart to Emigh moved the ball to the 4, and Tate covered the distance from there to make it 14-0 with 3:40 left in the first quarter.
The Dragons began to find their rhythm in the second quarter, getting as far as Tyrone’s 33 on a 20-yard hook up from Kurtz to Shane Cafferty, but on the next play, Kurtz turned up field on an option play and fumbled as he was tackled. Emigh scooped it up and darted 74 yards down the sideline for his second defensive touchdown of the season.
Later, Tyrone used a short punt to go 37 yards on 4 plays to go up 28-0. Jesse Walk carried twice on the drive for 21 yards, and a 14-yard run by Tate put the ball on the 1, setting up a sneak by Reihart.
“Tyrone disguised it coverages well, and dropped guys into double coverage, and really did a good job with that,” said Hoenstine.
The Golden Eagles lit the scoreboard once more before halftime, taking advantage of another short field after Central’s fourth down attempt from its own 46 ended in a Kurtz incompletion. Reihart hit Shaffer for 20 yards on first down and Mingle for 13 yards a play later. Tate capped the drive with a 6-yard run to make it 35-0.
“We thought, with the conditions tonight, that the running game was our strength and we had to go with that,” Franco said. “We had to keep their offense off the field.”
The Dragons were on the field for two plays in the second half before Tyrone scored again. This time, it was Emigh’s pick on second-and-five, making it 41-0.
The Eagles’ last score came on a 7-play, 43-yard march powered by Jeremy Barlett, who rushed for all of his 32 yards on the drive. Zach Gault got the call on fourth-and-1 for his first varsity touchdown at the 3:38 mark of the third quarter.
With the mercy rule in effect and Kurtz out of the game, Central got its two scores in the fourth quarter, one on a 17-yard pass from Derek Forshey to Jordan Saylor, and the other on a 17-yard pass from Forshey to Lucas Runk.
GRID TIDBITS: Tyrone’s other back-to-back unbeaten seasons came in 1947-48, 1996-97 and 2005-06 … Kurtz finished 13-for-24 for 142 yards … the Eagles have scored five defensive touchdowns … the Dragons fell to 2-7 and 1-5.
TYRONE 47 CENTRAL 13
TYRONE 14 21 12 0 – 47
CENTRAL 0 0 0 13 – 13
T – Tate 24 pass from Reihart (Shaffer kick) 7:25
T – Tate 4 run (Shaffer kick) 3:40
T – Emigh 74 fumble recovery (Shaffer kick) 9:10
T – Reihart 1 run (Shaffer kick) 3:45
T – Tate 6 run (Shaffer kick) :25
T – Emigh 40 interception return (PAT failed) 10:42
T – Gault 1 run (PAT failed) 3:58
C – Saylor 17 pass from Forshey (Miller kick) 10:35
C – Runk 17 pass from Forshey (PAT failed) 9:47
1st Downs 15 9
Yards Rushing 193 9
Pass Att.-Comp. 4-9 19-33
Yards Passing 74 206
Total Offense 267 215
Int. By 4 1
Fum. Rec. 2-0 3-1
Punts-Avg. 2-29 2-39
Penalties/Yards 5-35 8-33
TYRONE – Tate 8-70; Mingle 4-47; Walk 5-39; Barlett 4-32; Gault 3-4; Clark 1-3; Reihart 1-1; Stansbury 4-1; Barnhart 1-1; Smith 3-0; Emigh 1-(-5).
CENTRAL – Runk 4-21; Forshey 2-16; Saylor 1-(-1); Kurtz 7-(-29).
TYRONE- Reihart 4-9-74, 1 TD, 1 Int.
CENTRAL – Kurtz 13-24-142, 0 TD, 4 Int.; Forshey 5-8-56, 2 TD, 0 Int.; Runk 1-1-8, 0 TD, 0 Int.
TYRONE – Tate 1-24; Shaffer 1-20; Emigh 1-17; Mingle 1-9.
CENTRAL – Runk 6-57; Hardy 4-47; Cafferty 3-42; Ritchey 1-31; Saylor 2-26; Kurtz 1-8; McConahy 2-3.