By JUSTIN PACKER
MILL HALL - As the sea of blue flooded Malinak Stadium, fans were anticipating a match up of the two premier tailbacks in the District VI Class AAAA.
Central Mountain’s Von Walker races past the Little Lions’ linbackers to break off a big gain, yesterday at Malinak Stadium in Bald Eagle Township. State College beat CM, 36-7.
Central Mountain's Von Walker and State College's Andrew Kelly were slated to be the headline of last night's matchup in Bald Eagle Township.
Apparently, State College's Pat Irwin didn't get that memo. The junior quarterback stole the show, leading the Little Lions over Central Mountain, 36-7.
"I don't want to take anything away from State College," CM coach Vinnie Kishbaugh said. "They are big and fast. We had our chances early, but we didn't take advantage of them. The great teams don't let the games slip away from them.
"Tomorrow, we will break down the film. The big thing is that we had our opportunities and we had our chances. We have to build on that. There is a bright side to this. Our receivers played well against a great secondary and they were able to get open. We just need to execute on all of our plays, not just 30 percent of them - like we did tonight."
Irwin started the game off hot in the first half, going 4-of-6 for 124 yards - including two long touchdowns. The first was a 40-yard bullet to Darian Herncane who made a spectacular one-handed grab in mid stride, while the second came off a little flare to Kelly, who torched past the Wildcat defense - chewing up 51 yards in no time.
"He is getting more and more confident," State College coach Al Wolski said of Irwin. "He didn't take a varsity snap last year, but he is an athlete. He is used to competing and is always ready to go. I was happy with his performance tonight."
Throw in an impressive 31-yard touchdown keeper by Irwin and it is easy to see the Little Lion was on top of his game today.
Irwin wasn't the only star of the game, CM's Walker did all he could to keep the game from getting out of hand. The standout Wildcat racked up 102 yards on 16 carries, another 16 yards in passing and did mostly everything else on the field.
"Without Von on the field, this is a different game," Kishbaugh said. "We know that we can hand the ball off to him and he makes things happen. With him playing both ways, it takes a toll on him. He is a heck of an athlete, probably one of the best to come out of Central Mountain."
For all of Walker's dazzling runs and timely passing, his shining moment happened as a punter. On a punt return, SC's Kelly turned the corner, needing to only beat one player - Walker. All Walker did was square up on Kelly and lay a monstrous hit on the returner, saving a touchdown.
For the game, State racked up 387 yards of total offense - 255 on the ground and 132 through the air. The Wildcats managed to secure 213 yards of offense.
"We knew Central Mountain is a good team, especially with their tailbacks," Wolski said. "21 (Walker) is as good of a back as we will see all season. He gave us fits the last two times we played them. We told our kids to come out and play. These CM guys come out and hit hard all game. We had to be ready."
Central Mountain wasn't without their chances.
Twice- in the same drive - the Wildcats put the ball over or right on the goalline and both times the play got called back by penalties.
Travis Turchetta threaded a pass perfectly that got called back on an illegal motion penalty. A few plays later, Walker plunged the ball towards the goalline, only to have a holding call negate the play.
"That is the game when you deal with high school students," Kishbaugh said. "If you can stop those mistakes, you'd be coaching on the next level. It is frustrating, but you have to stay positive. That is the key. Our challenge is keep these young men up. They were riding high after last week's game. It is easy to be positive when things go your way. It is a test of character when you face adversity."
State College managed to jump out early, racking up a 16-0 lead after the first 12 minutes thanks to a 32-yard field goal from Ian Fennessey, the 40-yard touchdown pass from Irwin and the 31-yard rush from Irwin.
The second quarter was more of the same, as Irwin opened the scoring up with his 51-yard connection to Kelly and Texas-transfer Ebrahim Britton ripped off a 46-yard rush for a touchdown.
Coming out in the third, Kelly plunged across the goalline on a 7-yard rush, giving State College a comfortable 36-0 lead.
Central Mountain could have thrown in the towel and bowed out of the game, but they didn't. They took the fight to State College in the fourth quarter.
"We took on the motto of 'All In, All Out' this year," Kishbaugh said. "That means every play for the entire game. We could have pulled guys out, but that goes against our mentality. I wanted to get something positive out of this game and we did. I am glad we kept our heads and got that score."
Walker, Travis Turchetta and company went to work and put up an impressive three-play, 87 yard drive for the final points of the game.
Walker opened the drive with a quick sweep outside for 17 yards, followed by a 38-yard strike from Turchetta to Tyler Pavalko. The Wildcats struck paydirt when Cole Renninger caught a Turchetta pass and quickly cut up field for the 32-yard touchdown.
Defensively, Central Mountain was unable to match State's running game, as Ryan Goeke gashed the Wildcats for 105 yards on eight carries.
Central Mountain will look to bounce back Friday, when they welcome the Huskies of Mifflin County into Malinak Stadium