A new face in charge of the program and a loss to start off the season is attracting Tyrone Area High School football opponents like sharks to blood in the water.
"Everybody's licking their chops that this is the year to get Tyrone," new Golden Eagles coach Steve Guthoff said.
This week, it has dragons circling, too. Scarlet Dragons, that is.
Photo for the Mirror by Manning Photography
Tyrone running back James Oliver will be trying to help Tyrone get its first win Friday.
For the past few years, Central has elevated itself to a par with Tyrone ... almost. In the last three years, the Dragons have gone 1-4 against the Eagles, losing by 7, 1 and 10 and dropping two close District 6 playoff meetings. Even when Central won the 6-AA championship in 2008, the Dragons fell to Tyrone by 24 points and didn't have to face Tyrone in the postseason - the Eagles were upset a week earlier.
So one is left to wonder if Friday's 7 p.m. game at the Roaring Spring Athletic Field is being viewed by the 1-0 Dragons as a chance to put some old ghosts to rest and establish themselves as an elite team in the Mountain League and the district.
"That maybe the case that we really need to get this one to be over the hump," Central coach Dave Baker said, "but we'd like to approach as it's just going to be a really tough game."
Game: Tyrone Golden Eagles (0-1) vs. Central Scarlet Dragons (1-0)
Where: Roaring Spring Athletic Field, Roaring Spring
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
The coaches: Tyrone - Steve Guthoff (19-51, eighth year); Central - Dave Baker (132-175-11, 34th year)
Series record: Tyrone, 22-14-2
Last meeting: Tyrone, 35-7 (Sept. 30, 2011)
The Dragons made a strong case that they might be primed for a step up last week. With a healthy nucleus returning from last year and several very explosive athletes, Central jumped all over host Chestnut Ridge, scoring all of its points in the first three quarters and rolling up more than 400 yards of offense in a 51-20 victory.
"We thought we were a capable team. We thought Chestnut Ridge got off to a bad start and maybe didn't play as well as they could have. We thought it was a little bit too easy. It surprised me it was like that," Baker said. "I hope that that continues."
In that game, Bradi Moore and Austin Cunningham combined for 165 yards rushing and 143 yards passing and scored four touchdowns between them.
"Central's always played us really tough. We're going to have our work cut out for us," Guthoff said. "Their line is big and strong. [Moore] is a really explosive back. The quarterback [Cunningham] can run - he can take a bad situation and turn it into a plus."
Tyrone is 0-1 for the first time since 2009 after Bellwood scored late and emerged with a 22-15 win in the annual "Backyard Brawl" game. However, there were some positives in the loss for the Eagles, most notably James Oliver, who rushed for an area-best 221 yards on 27 carries.
"The offensive line blocked well. They did a nice job opening some seams for James to run through," Guthoff said.
"They have speed in the backfield, and they seem to block well," Baker said of Tyrone. "Their defense is strong as usual."
The Eagles, though, couldn't get a couple of crucial stops when they needed it, only managed to score twice despite rushing for more than 260 yards and still are going through growing pains with their passing attack.
"If we can't throw the ball, we're going to have a really tough time running that thing on them," Guthoff said.
Going from losing into one big rivalry game right into one of the team's other big rivalries isn't ideal, but Guthoff was hoping to turn a negative into a positive.
"It terms of moving on now, it might be actually easier to move on with a sense of urgency," Guthoff said. "Some of the best Tyrone teams have lost a game early."
That happened last year, in fact, when the Eagles fell in overtime to Mifflin County the second week but went on to reach the PIAA finals.
Baker, meanwhile, is trying to guard against complacency. After the Dragons get through this game, they head on the road to play Clearfield - probably the Mountain League co-favorite with Tyrone heading into the season - next week. A loss to the Eagles could easily turn Central from 1-0 to 1-2.
"We certainly are going to guard against that, because we know Tyrone is very good. You can say what you want about Bellwood, but Bellwood has a good team," Baker said. "We know it's not going to be easy."