Golden Eagles trying to turn the tables on Central

Nine week ago, Central put a thumping on Tyrone.

The Scarlet Dragons rolled up 435 yards — outrushing the Golden Eagles 230-50 — in a 31-14 beatdown at Gray-Veterans Memorial Field on Sept. 6. It was just the start of what was a frustrating season for Tyrone, which limped to a 3-7 finish.

That, however, was good enough to get the Eagles into the playoffs. And that’s all that really matters.

“We’re putting it out there to these guys that it’s the start of a new season,” Tyrone coach Jason Wilson said. “We’re 0-0.”

Tyrone will try to make amends when it matters most when the Eagles travel to Roaring Spring Athletic Field on Friday night to meet two-time defending District 6 champion Central in a Class 3A quarterfinal game at 7 p.m.

The winner will head to second-seeded Forest Hills on Nov. 11. Huntingdon, another Mountain League team, is the top seed and could be the opponent for either the Eagles or Scarlet Dragons if they make it to Mansion Park for the finals on Nov. 17 or 18.

Dave Baker’s Dragons went through a lull in the middle of the season but came back to pin Huntingdon with its only loss of the season two weeks ago. Baker, though, is well-aware that the shoe could be on the other foot if his team gets caught looking ahead or just thinks things will be the same as they were at Tyrone two months ago.

“They appear to be a team that is trying to put it all together. They are making some changes they think will fit what they hope to do,” Baker said of Tyrone. “Also, being a rivalry game adds to the playoff atmosphere.”

Indeed, Tyrone has turned its quarterback into a dangerous receiver and its all-star receiver into a dangerous quarterback since the earlier meeting, and Parker Mitchell found Denver Light five times in last week’s loss to Chestnut Ridge for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Eagles also have a 900-yard rusher in Brandon Loose.

The Eagles lost to undefeated Bellwood-Antis in overtime, gave Huntingdon a close call early in the season and basically matched Clearfield yard-for-yard on the road a few weeks later, just not being able to finish drives. If a few things come together for Tyrone now, it could be a much different story.

“A lot of games for us, we played one good half,” Wilson said. “We know we’re the underdogs. Nobody is giving us a chance.”

There are reasons for that. As Wilson noted, Tyrone hasn’t sealed the deal in its big games. And Central, obviously, has made quite a reputation for itself. The Dragons are keyed by 1,000-yard rusher Trystan Detwiler on offense and all-state linebacker Jared Smith and disruptive lineman Austin Garner on defense.

Central also has the benefit of having been in this situation before, and Baker sees benefits to that.

“Our players know it can be accomplished. Even those that haven’t played a lot have seen it and been a part of it,” Baker said.

The winner of the game won’t have any cakewalk to try to set up a rematch with Huntingdon. Forest Hills is bringing a 9-1 record into the playoffs, too. The Rangers are led by standout quarterback Adam Cecere, big play all-purpose player Jon Long and a defense that has given fits to everyone it played.

The Rangers came up three points shy against three-time defending PIAA champion Bishop Guilfoyle on the road toward the middle of the season, and they defeated Johnstown when the Trojans were playing well.

Huntingdon, obviously, is the favorite to be in the championship game, its one blemish to Central in a 14-10 game in Week 9 aside. Huntingdon has a bruising but athletic running back in all-stater Ian Border and complements him with a big-play wideout in Jonathan Price. The Bearcats also can be very formidable on defense — they sometimes have lapses, but they are usually physical and force more than two takeaways per game.

In Huntingdon’s path are two teams it has dispatched by double figures already this year, fourth-seeded Juniata and fifth-seeded Bald Eagle Area. BEA could give Juniata a run for its money because the Eagles have faced the tougher regular season schedule, but Juniata has been to consecutive D6 finals and hung with Huntingdon for a half at War Vets Field, leading 14-0 after one.