Golden Eagles look for meaning against Hollidaysburg

The matchup

Game: Tyrone Golden Eagles (2-5) vs. Hollidaysburg Golden Tigers (4-3)

Where: Tiger Stadium, Hollidaysburg

When: Tonight, 7 p.m.

The coaches: Tyrone — Jason Wilson (28-16, fourth year); Hollidaysburg — Homer DeLattre (76-89, 16th year)

Series record: Hollidaysburg, 30-21-5 (first met in 1921)

Last meeting: Hollidaysburg, 34-13 (Oct. 14, 2016)

By Philip Cmor

One would think a pair of 500-win football programs separated by about 20 miles of Blair County would make for a natural rivalry, but Tyrone Area coach Jason Wilson doesn’t want to jump the gun on pinning that label on the Golden Eagles’ series with Hollidaysburg just yet.

“I really don’t think it’s a rivalry. We only picked them up last year (after a 40-year hiatus), and they handled us pretty well,” Wilson said. “The key is for it to be a competitive game. If it becomes a tough game, then I think it could turn into something like that.”

The Eagles, having three weeks to try to secure a spot in the District 6 Class 3A playoffs, will get a chance to try to make the Hollidaysburg game more meaningful for years to come when they travel to the county seat to try to upend the 4-3, District 6-8-10 Class 5A playoff-bound Golden Tigers tonight. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

While he’s definitely looking for a win to build on last week’s victory at Allderdice and steam for the postseason, Tiger coach Homer DeLattre — who also is Hollidaysburg’s athletic director and has to make out the independent schedule — wouldn’t mind seeing the series with Tyrone grow in prominence.

“I think, overall, it’s really good for high school football in this area,” said DeLattre, who was able to bring Central back to the Tiger schedule last year and will add Altoona to the slate in 2018. “A lot of the guys talk about getting to play the local teams. I know it’s a great conference (the Mountain League) that they play in, and some great competition. It’s great that we can play a local team.”

In the Golden Eagles, the Tigers will be facing a local team with a lot for which to play. At 2-5, Tyrone is competing with Bald Eagle Area, Bedford and Central Cambria to try to nail down one of the final slots in the D6-3A playoff bracket. Tyrone’s already played a very difficult schedule that included a pair of 7-0 teams in Bellwood-Antis and Huntingdon, 6-1 Bellefonte and 5-2 Central, and the Eagles are trying to bounce back from a road loss that allowed Clearfield to go to 4-3.

After Hollidaysburg, Tyrone still has a regular-season finale against 6-1 Chestnut Ridge. Getting one win in the last three weeks is vital for the Eagles, but getting two — especially one over a bigger school with a winning record like Hollidaysburg — almost could be assured of punching Tyrone’s ticket to the playoffs.

“(The players) know that. They understand that,” Wilson said. “I definitely think it’s a big chance to play a bigger school. I hope the kids are up for that.”

The Eagles finished with 1 yard less than Clearfield in last week’s loss, but three turnovers and an inability to take advantage of its own opportunities resulted in a 35-7 final. Still, there were positives in that game Wilson is hoping to be able to build upon.

“I think since Week 3 when we played Huntingdon, we’ve been on the right track, getting better each week except for the mishap at Bellefonte, where we didn’t look good at all,” Wilson said. “We’ve continued to improve. Last week, we did a lot of good things. We just didn’t come away with points.”

That’s a hole the Eagles will need to stitch up this week if they hope to have a shot at an upset. One thing they have working for them is a little bit of uncertainty as to whether they will come out with starter Denver Light at 2016 all-area wide receiver Parker Mitchell at quarterback — Light’s been relegated to defense the last couple of weeks because of an injury, but could be nearing a return.

Eagle running back Brendan Loose has rushed for 100 yards in three of the last four games.

Hollidaysburg, meanwhile, is a near miss at McDowell from being on a three-game winning streak. Last week, the Tigers finished strong to pull away from Allderdice for a 42-6 victory in Pittsburgh.

“We got off to a slow start but were still able to do a lot of good things in the first half. In the second half, we were able to take over the game,” DeLattre said. “So far, so good. We’re happy with where we’re at. We just have to keep improving.”

The six points allowed last week equaled a season low for the Tigers, while Patrick Young rushed for a season-high 107 yards, and Jack Sauserman continued to contend for an area-best with his ninth touchdown catch.

“We’re still doing a lot of fundamental drilling,” DeLattre said when asked about the Tigers’ focus for down the regular-season stretch. “All those things can be constantly gone over and over and over. We’ve faced a lot of different offenses. Tyrone is multiple with double-tight sets. They do the spread sets. They do a lot with motion. So, there’s always something to be focusing in on.”