Tyrone gets another shot at redemption

Another week in the high school football season, another big game, another game Tyrone lost in 2012.

Last week, the Golden Eagles avenged last year’s season-opening loss to rival Bellwood-Antis, 20-6. When the Eagles and Central meet at 7 tonight at Tyrone’s Gray-Veterans Memorial Field in a matchup of traditional District 6 Class AA powers, the home team will get a chance to avenge last year’s 28-0 loss to the Scarlet Dragons.

For veterans, like quarterback Erik Wagner, who has the losses highlighted on his locker, the 2012 losses are big. But, Tyrone coach Steve Guthoff says, his team his so young, history doesn’t mean much to most of his players.

“Really, we have so many new guys that it really doesn’t factor it what happened last year,” Guthoff said. “Honestly, it hasn’t been an issue. I thought it would, but the personality of this team is that it’s just another game against an outstanding opponent. I’m really impressed with their maturity. When you think about playing for revenge, you’re not executing as well.

“It’s a big game for us,” Central coach Dave Baker said. “It’s a [Mountain] league game for us, and it’s a rivalry. We beat them last year, and our guys have confidence because of that. They’re going to be ready for us, and I’m sure they think they can beat us.”

With the emergence of Wagner as a passer – he completed 14 of his 17 passes for 146 yards against B-A – the game features at least two dangerous offensive weapons for both teams.

The Central tandem of quarterback Austin Cunningham and running back Bradi Moore were big against Tyrone last season, and they were key in the Dragons’ 33-6 season-opening win over Chestnut Ridge.

Cunningham was 3-of-6 for 120 yards and a 55-yard TD pass for Moore in wet conditions last year, while Moore ran for 101 yards, including a 72-yard TD run, and caught two passes for 102 yards.

Last week, Cunningham ran for 105 yards and two TDs, passed for 34, including a 6-yard scoring strike to Moore, and, for good measure, caught a 14-yard TD pass. Moore ran for 88 yards on 14 carries and scored once.

“No. 2 [Cunningham] can hurt you,” Guthoff said. “He’s probably been throwing to his guys since he was 9 or 10 years old. He’s such a fluid athlete. We have to make sure everyone is doing their job against him. He’s the type of athlete who can make a team pay.

“No. 32 [Moore] is another guy you have to know where he is. We have to be able to tackle those guys. It really comes down to having a sound defensive scheme and doing your job. They have a lot of gadget plays too. Our best defense is to keep their offense off the field.”

That assignment will fall mainly on the shoulders of Wagner and speedy tailback James Oliver. While Wagner having a career game at QB – and intercepting two passes in a five-turnover game for the Tyrone defense – Oliver was running for 109 yards on 14 carries and scoring two touchdowns.

Last year against Central, Oliver ran for 122 yards on 20 carries, and Wagner connected on 10-of-20 passes for 86 yards.

“They’re a solid team with one real fast runner in Oliver,” Baker said. “We have to contain Oliver. Their quarterback is good. He seems better this year. They look capable of putting up points on the board, and they played well against Bellwood.”

For both teams, a win in this game will serve as a confidence booster.

“We thought we played pretty well against them last year,” Baker said. “Until that time, the players were not sure we could beat them. They were searching for their identity. After playing us, they seemed to play better.”