Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

The Tyrone Golden Eagles spent most of the first half last night beating the Penns Valley Rams like they stole something.
But it was the Eagles who were doing all of the robbing. Specifically, it was junior Brandon Maceno who most frequently broke the seventh commandment, coming away with steals on three of the Rams’ first four possessions, leading to three Tyrone touchdowns as the Eagles built a 27-0 halftime lead.
Tyrone went on to win 40-6 in its regular season finale at Gray Veterans Memorial Field to finish the season 8-1 and firmly secure its No. 1 seeding in the District 6 Class AA playoffs.
“This was a team that really grew, and got better each week,” said Tyrone coach John Franco, who has now led the Eagles into the postseason nine straight years. “I’m really proud of them. (Being 8-1) is a great accomplishment. We’re going to enjoy the regular season here and then get ready for the playoffs.”
In all, Tyrone forced five Penns Valley fumbles, recovering three, and came away with one interception while limiting Centre County’s most productive offense to just 84 total yards.
Of the Eagles’ six first-half possessions, five started in Penns Valley territory, with three beginning at or inside the 30.
“Nothing they did surprised me,” said Valley coach Martin Tobias. “Turning the ball over as many times as we did and giving them the ball inside our 30 surprised me. I expected this to be a much tougher game. We needed to take better care of the ball.”
Despite using only half of the field most of the night, Tyrone rolled up some of its best offensive numbers of the season with 301 total yards. Junior Brice Mertiff, while being held under 100 yards rushing for the first time this season, scored three touchdowns, and Brinton Mingle and Ben Gummo each rushed for 50.
Meanwhile, Valley’s powerful running tandem of Curt Royer and Evan Leitch, who coming in had combined for more than 1,400 yards, was completely hampered by Tyrone’s defense. Royer finished with 16 yards on four carries and Leitch had 18 on 10. They combined to cough the ball up three times.
Through a combination of Tyrone’s attacking pursuit of the ball, and Valley’s willingness to part with it, by the 7:29 mark of the second quarter the Rams had five possessions resulting in 10 offensive plays.
“Penns Valley has got a heck of an offense,” said Franco. “There were a lot of turnovers and we were able to take advantage of it. Without the turnovers, we know it would have been a different ball game.”
Valley’s first turnover came just 47 seconds into the game when Leitch fumbled at the Ram 30-yard line, where it was recovered by Maceno. Tyrone needed seven plays and five minutes to get on the board, with Leonard Wilson hitting Max Soellner on a crossing route in the endzone for a 6-0 lead at the 6:30 mark.
Valley managed just three plays and a punt on its ensuing possession and after a 37-yard return by Tommy Crowl the Eagles set up shop at the Valley 48. From there, Tyrone went 48 yards in six plays to take a 13-0 lead.
Wilson had two 14-yard completions on the drive to Soellner and Crowl, and Mertiff ran in from the six at 2:00.
On the Rams’ next play from scrimmage, quarterback Todd Bumgardner was picked off when Maceno made a diving play on a ball at the Ram 42-yard line.
That opened the door for Tyrone to build its lead to 20 points with a nine-play drive. Crowl ran for 13 yards on a reverse to get the ball to the 27 and caught a seven-yard pass later in the drive to give Tyrone first-and-goal at the Valley 4. Mertiff scored his second touchdown on a four-yard run one play later, making it 20-0 at the 9:55 mark of the second quarter.
Two plays into Valley’s next possession, the Rams turned the ball over once more, this time on a fumble after Bumgardner connected with Royer for an eight-yard gain. Maceno again recovered, giving Tyrone possession at the Ram 22.
Mingle carried for nine yards on first down, Mertiff gathered three more on second, and three plays later he sprinted it in from the 10 making it 27-0.
Valley turned the ball over two plays into its next series, as well, but after Tyrone took over at the PV-24, the Eagles went four-plays-and-out, with Wilson’s fourth-down pass to Crowl in the endzone just out of his outstretched receiver’s grasp.
“Things like that have a tendency to steamroll on you,” said Tobias, whose team fell to 4-5. “Especially when they do what they do well, and that’s to capitalize off mistakes.”
Tyrone took the second half kick and promptly set about putting the 35-point Mercy Rule into effect starting at its own 34. The Eagles went exclusively to the run on a 66-yard drive that took 11 plays and lasted 5:14. The drive’s longest play came on first-and-10 from the Ram 49 when Mingle broke free up the middle for 21 yards. Seven plays later, Wilson sneaked in from the one-yard line to make it 33-0.
Tyrone scored one last time on its next series, a 64-yard, 11-play drive that was capped by a one-yard run by Shane Christine 1:22 into the fourth quarter.
Valley’s lone score came late in the game following a Tyrone fumble at its own 27. The Rams used four plays to cover the distance, with Royer running in from the two.
Grid Tidbits: Pending the outcome of today’s game between Northern Cambria and Ligonier Valley, the Eagles may host Penns Valley next week in the opening round of the playoffs … Soellner finished with three catches for 37 yards while Crowl had two for 21 … Penns Valley managed just three first downs … the Rams were held 400 yards below their output a week ago in a 55-18 win over Donegal … Matt Wheland scored his first varsity point with a fourth quarter PAT kick … Tyrone finished the regular season 4-0 vs. teams from Centre County and one overtime away from being unbeaten.
Tyrone 17, Penns Valley 14
Score by quarter
Penns Valley – 0 0 0 6- 6
Tyrone – 13 14 6 7 – 40
First Quarter
T – Soellner 5 pass from Wilson. (Kick blocked) 6:30
T – Mertiff 6 run (Gummo kick) 2:00
Second Quarter
T – Mertiff 4 run. (Gummo kick) 9:55
T – Mertiff 10 run (Gummo kick) 7:37
Third Quarter
T – Wilson 1 run (Kick blocked) 6:40
Fourth Quarter
T – Christine. (Wheland kick) 10:38
PV – Royer 2 run (Kick failed) 3:37
Team Statistics
First Downs 24 3
Rushes 51 22
Rush yards 243 70
Passing att. 6-11 3-8
Pass yards 58 14
Int. by 1 0
Fumbles/rec 2/1 5/3
Penalties 1-5 1-5
Punts 2-26 4-40.3
Total Yards 301 84
Individual Statistics
Tyrone: Mertiff 21-89, 3 TDs, Mingle 6-56, Gummo 10-50, Christine 3-17, 1 TD, Crowl 1-14, Bonsell 2-10, Lauder 2-6, Myers 2-2, Wilson 4-(-1), 1 TD.
Penns Valley: 2-20, Hull 3-6, Leitch 10-18, Royer 4-16 1 TD, Bumgardner 3-10.
Tyrone: Wilson 6-11 58 yards, 1 TDs, 0 Int.
Penns Valley: Bumgardner 3-8 14 yards 0 TD, 1 Int.
Tyrone: Soellner 3-27, 1 TD, Crowl 2-21, Chamberlain 1-10.
Penns Valley: Royer 2-15, Brubaker 1-(-1).

By Rick