Blair County squads look for momentum

Hollidaysburg and Tyrone both started the season with victories over bitter rivals but have had their fair share of struggles lately.

The Golden Tigers and Golden Eagles certainly have an excuse.

Before Hollidaysburg knocked off winless Central Mountain this past Friday, the Golden Tigers had lost four straight to teams that are now a combined 20-6 while Tyrone has had it even worse the past three games. The Golden Eagles are 0-3 against three teams (Bellefonte, Bald Eagle Area, Clearfield) that are now a combined 19-2.

“Obviously it has been a really tough three weeks,” Tyrone coach Jason Wilson said. “Last week against Clearfield, I thought we did much better than we did against Bald Eagle Area. It was a tight game right up to halftime. We saw more positives against Clearfield than the week before.”

Hollidaysburg coach Homer DeLattre said it was good to get back in the win column after a tough stretch.

“We have been playing well against some really good teams, but just haven’t won,” DeLattre said. “We played all three phases really well against Central Mountain, and it felt good to get a victory.”

Both teams are hoping the tough recent schedule prepares them for the playoffs, but both are hoping to use Friday’s game at Tyrone as a springboard.

“Every game is big, but this is a big game for momentum toward the end of the season,” Wilson said. “We took a right step against Clearfield, a step forward, and we need to make sure we are getting better. Winning this game would be huge for momentum these last couple weeks.”

When Tyrone got off to a 4-0 start, it was with strong offensive and defensive line play and the strong running of Zac Albright.

“The No. 1 thing that sticks out is their line,” DeLattre said. “They are the same guys on both sides, and they are very good and well coached. We have to get those guys off the ball with our line. Our line has been good at times and struggled at times. Tyrone also has a good inside linebacker in Denver Light to go with their line.”

DeLattre is hoping to get lineman Josh Howells back from injury as soon as this week. He was not a full participant in any practices last week, but he’s getting closer to making it back on the field.

“Hollidaysburg is big up front with tough runners,” Wilson said. “Their quarterback is a good runner who can also throw. Moving the ball will be tough against their line and linebackers. We started getting the run game back last week, it will be tough this week to continue that, but we have to be able to run the ball and not be one-dimensional.”

The game is sure to draw a big crowd.

“Games against Altoona, Tyrone and Central is good for high school football in this area,” DeLattre said.

Back on the road

Altoona must travel to Cumberland Valley on Friday following its most lopsided loss of the season, 49-7, to Central Dauphin last week at Mansion Park.

“You are never as good as you think you are, and you are never as bad as you think you are,” Altoona coach Nick Felus said. “You watch the film, and you can make corrections. We are about getting better and building off some of the positives and minimize our mistakes.”

Cumberland Valley is 1-6 but has played a tough schedule so far that included Central Dauphin, Harrisburg and Chambersburg. The Eagles are coming off their first win of the season, over Carlisle.

“They play really hard and don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Felus said. “They are well coached and had a tough schedule early on and will be battle tested. They have a tough quarterback that can make things happen and spread the ball. Defensively, they run to the football and tackle well.”

Big test for Colts

Northern Cambria moved into the top seed in the District 6 Class 1A rankings this week, but adding to its point total on Friday will be a stiff challenge.

The Colts take on undefeated Heritage Conference for Ligonier Valley, the second seed in Class 2A behind undefeated Richland.

“They have so much that they bring to the table with the numerous motions and formations,” Northern Cambria coach Sam Shutty said. “Offensively, they present things that you can’t prepare for. They can attack you from every angle possible. We need to be fundamentally sound, focus on tackling and play fundamentally well. They are so good at what they do.”

Ligonier Valley has a dynamic offense starring quarterback John Caldwell, wide receiver Aaron Tutino and running back Kyrie Miller. Miller is averaging more than 100 yards rushing per game, and Tutino needs one more touchdown catch to set the state record.

Still, Shutty is also concerned with the other side of the ball.

“It’s one of those things where we have to figure out what they are doing defensively,” Shutty said. “Everyone talks about their offense, but Ligonier is equally dynamic defensively. We have to see how they attack teams, and then from there, we have to get our guys opportunities to make big plays.”

The Colts have playmakers, especially in the running game. Ben Vasil has 848 yards rushing and is averaging more than 10 yards a carry. Logan Onkst isn’t far behind with 778 yards, and quarterback Mark Marino has more than 400 yards on the ground and has rushed for 10 touchdowns.

“I think as long as we can stay healthy, our guys are confident in what we do,” Shutty said. “We have an identity, and we have to live up to it. We have taken pride in what we do, and we have a head of steam. We want to keep it going.”

Northern Cambria is 6-1 and coming off a season where it lost to Juniata Valley in the District 6 playoffs. Shutty said that loss has fueled the returning Colts players and the coaching staff.

“It made them exceptionally hungry,” Shutty said. “Every one of our lineman was in the weight room the next Monday. It really intensified the players and the coaching staff. I thought we were the better team, and it was a tough way to end the season. It intensified our returning starters for sure.”