Tyrone celebrate Homecoming against high-scoring Indian Valley Warriors

When it comes to putting points on the board, the Indian Valley Warriors, who visit Gray Veterans Memorial Field tomorrow for a Homecoming game against Tyrone, are one of the few teams on the schedule that can hang with the Golden Eagles.
After scoring 30 or more points in each of the last four games, Tyrone is averaging 33.6 points per game, scoring no fewer than six touchdowns in its last two games against Bellefonte and Bishop Guilfoyle.
Valley, meanwhile, averages 33.5 points per game, and has gone over 40 four times this season, including a high of 54 in Week 5 against Bellefonte.
That may be where the comparisons end because while the 3-4 Warriors have struggled to win in spite of their offensive proficiency, Tyrone has used its offensive success to open the season 7-0, climbing as high as No. 5 in the state rankings.
The reason: Tyrone is as effective stopping a big play as it is igniting one. Indian Valley, to put it politely, is not. So where the Eagles have allowed just 45 points in seven games, the Warriors surrendered 10 more than that in just one loss – a 55-54 setback to the Red Raiders three weeks ago.
According to Valley coach Gawen Stoker, it comes down to tackling.
“We have some inconsistencies on defense,” Stoker said. “Sometimes we don’t tackle well. Sometimes we get caught with mismatches or caught in stunts, but the big problem is, if you don’t tackle, the other team will run, pass, and do whatever it wants.”
Such was the case last week against Huntingdon. In a game where Valley totaled 315 yards of offense against a team that has already clinched the MAC Seven Mountain Division, the Warriors surrendered 375 yards and three first-half touchdowns and were never really in the running.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg on Valley’s hemorrhaging defense. In its shootout loss to Bellefonte, IV gave up a Centre County record 436 yards passing to the Raiders’ Ryan Poorman. The Warriors also allowed 38 against Clearfield, losing a game in which they scored 35.
The Warriors have allowed more than 30 points in three of their four losses.
But the concern for Tyrone coach John Franco is that Valley’s triple-option offense is potent enough to keep its defense off the field. Led by thousand-yard rusher Nam Shartzer, who has scored 18 touchdowns, Valley has found a way to rack up yards and points with an offense Franco said is always troublesome for Tyrone.
“I’m very impressed with their offense,” he said. “They are really good at running that triple option, and no one teaches that better than Gawen Stoker. “As good as (Shartzer) is, their quarterback (Will Goss) is just as dangerous faking it up the middle and then running the option outside.”
But the Eagles have been pretty good at stuffing the run. They come into the game allowing just over 84 yards per game on the ground, with 45 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Senior Tyler Hoover has nine of those, sophomore Johnny Shaffer 8.5 and senior James Updike 4.5.
“We came into the year banking on our defense,” Franco said. “The defense has done a great job this year and coach Steve Guthoff has been super with them. Our defense has really allowed our offense to develop.”
After last week’s game against Bishop Guilfoyle – a 42-0 whitewashing that clinched no worse than a tie for the MAC Nittany Division title – Tyrone had recorded four shutouts, allowing only one opponent to score more than twice in a game.
“They don’t make mistakes,” said Stoker. “They wait for the other team to make a mistake and then take advantage.”
Opponents’ mistakes have been more frequent over the last two weeks. Against the Raiders and Marauders, the Eagles forced 10 turnovers, with five leading to Tyrone touchdowns.
“Our defense has allowed us to do things offensively,” Franco said. “They haven’t allowed any long drives, which keeps our offense on the field and allows us to develop a rhythm. They’re not overly dominant talent-wise, but they work extremely hard.”
The effort has paid off. Along with its unbeaten record and success in the division, Tyrone sits atop the District 6-AA playoff standings with 950 points and a No. 1 seed clearly in its sights.
It also has one of the most effective offenses in Central Pennsylvania. The Eagles have scored more than 40 points in their last two games, with running backs Johnny Franco and Tyler Gillmen each running for over 100 yards in both contests.
Franco, with 869 yards, is poised to become Tyrone’s 14th 1000-yard rusher, while Gillmen, in only four games after an early-season bout with mono, has already contributed nearly 500 yards of total offense and 10 touchdowns.
Quarterback Tyler Gillmen leads the Nittany Division in his first year as a starter, completing 35 of 60 passes for 873 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Justin Schopp leads Eagle receivers with 19 catches for 551 yards, but two other receivers – Franco (4-111) and Shayne Tate (5-182) – have over 100 receiving yards.
In short, most things have worked on most nights for the Eagles, and Stoker has been around long enough to recognize the problems that can create.
“They’re undefeated and we’re 3-4,” he said. “They’ve beaten the teams that have beaten us. They’re a typical well-coached, good Tyrone team.”
Closing in on a Millennium
While Franco looks to become the next link in the chain of great Tyrone rushers, Golden is nearing the same feat at his position. Golden is averaging 125 passing yards per game, which means that a normal night by his standards would allow him to become the fifth passer under Franco to throw for over 1,000 yards in a season.
The others were Jarrod Anderson (1995-96), Matt Sharer (1997), Brandon Hoover (1999-2000), Tyler Hoover (2001-2002) and Leonard Wilson (2004-2005).