Tyrone-Central getting bigger and bigger each year

By John Hartsock

jhartsock@altoonamirror.com

Players and coaches on the Tyrone Area High School football team annually point to the season-opening contest with neighboring Bellwood-Antis as one of the biggest games on the Eagles’ football schedule.

But in the recent past, Tyrone’s game with Central has taken on just as much significance.

The Golden Eagles visit Central tonight for a 7 p.m. kickoff at the Roaring Spring Athletic Field.

Both teams open the Mountain League part of their schedule after starting the season last Friday with impressive non-league victories.

Tyrone defeated Bellwood-Antis, 16-7, while Central downed Northern Bedford, 32-6.

Tyrone coach Jason Wilson said that, at least in recent years, his team’s game with Central has taken on just as much weight as the rivalry matchup with Bellwood-Antis.

“I think that in some aspects, it may be even more intense than (the) Bellwood (game),” Wilson said. “Obviously, Central has been very good the last half-decade, and that has made it a tough rivalry for us. And it’s always been a very physical game.”

Central coach Dave Baker thinks that Tyrone may be his team’s top rival. Tyrone leads the all-time series, 23-20, but Central won both meetings last year, including a 21-10 verdict in a District 6 Class 3A quarterfinal-round playoff matchup.

“I think it’s a good rivalry,” the 73-year-old Baker, who is beginning his 39th season as a head coach, said of Central’s matchup with Tyrone. “It has recently been a very good rivalry. Tyrone had the upper hand, but we have evened things out a little bit the last couple of years. I would say that Tyrone is probably our strongest rivalry.”

Both coaches watched their teams play good all-around games in season-opening competition last Friday.

Tyrone rolled up 336 yards in total offense and the Golden Eagles’ defense also played well in limiting Bellwood to one touchdown.

Senior quarterback Denver Light completed 13 of 21 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown throw to sophomore wideout Damon Gripp, who caught three passes for 71 yards. Sophomore running back Tommy Hicks also caught four passes for 27 yards, and senior running back Zac Albright rushed for 98 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown.

“We were able to move the ball,” Wilson said. “I thought Denver Light, (senior tight end) Cory Lehman, and Damon Gripp had good games, and our offensive linemen did pretty well. We had almost 350 total yards — I can’t complain about that.”

Defensively, Tyrone limited Bellwood to just 128 total yards.

“I thought overall our defense played really well,” said Wilson, who is returning seven starters on defense from last season’s team. “I thought we attacked, and we were really aggressive containing Bellwood’s quarterback, Shawn Wolfe, who really opened it up on us last year.”

Central senior quarterback Noah Muthler had an exemplary day in the Scarlet Dragons’ season-opening win at Northern Bedford, running for two touchdowns and passing for two more. The 6-foot-1, 174-pound Muthler completed 7 of 16 passes for 152 yards, while rushing 16 times for 89 yards.

“We will need to stop their quarterback,” Wilson said of Muthler. “He’s one of their key players, and he’s obviously a big threat. They’re going to try to get the ball into his hands, and we have to contain him and not let him make the big plays on us.

“He’s a good all-around athlete who has a good arm, is a good runner, and is quick and shifty,” Wilson said.

Baker has similar respect for Tyrone quarterback Light, who will play college football at Fordham next year.

“He’s a good passer, but he is also a good runner who runs on the perimeter and will put pressure on your defense there,” Baker said of Light. “He can also throw on the run, so that makes him pretty dangerous. We have to stop (both) his running and his passing.”

Both teams look at this game as one of the biggest challenges of the season.

“I think it’s going to be a good game,” Wilson said. “I think it will be another tough Blair County battle, and we’re excited for it.”

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