Eagles face Central Valley Warriors tonight in State Semifinals
By SHAREIK FLOWERS
That’s the number of games BEA has to win to crown itself the PIAA Class 3A Champion. The Eagles earned a berth in tonight’s semifinal round with a 21-20 win over Sharon, the same team that eliminated them last year in the quarterfinal round. Now they face Central Valley tonight for the chance to compete in next Saturday’s State Championship.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling ,” BEA coach Jesse Nagle said of his team advancing in the postseason. “The kids worked really hard [last week] to understand how we can limit Sharon. They were very athletic on the edge, and the kids bought into how to [contain] them and they played their tails off.
“And it was a great feeling to hear how many people in the stands were there. There were numerous people there from the community who would only go to home games, not even away games, who made that trip. It’s a very exciting time for the Bald Eagle community.”
In their final practices leading up to their clash versus the Warriors the Eagles are taking it one day at a time. With the holiday yesterday, Nagle and the coaching staff are preaching the importance of remaining focused and playing with an 100% effort. It’s a monumental achievement when any team reaches this far in the playoffs, but the season isn’t over yet, so Nagle doesn’t want the kids overly-content heading into tonight’s matchup.
“A lot of times kids get satisfied with being in the Final Four and being the last four teams in the state,” Nagle said. “So as soon as our [last] game ended I told the guys ‘cherish this one. But we’ve got to get right back to work with the expectations of watching more film than ever.’ I can monitor how much time they putting in and they’re putting in a tremendous amount of time.”
SIZING UP CENTRAL VALLEY
Central Valley is undoubtedly BEA’s toughest opponent of the season. The Warriors are 12-1 on the year, and according to MaxPreps are the No. 1 ranked team in the PIAA Class 3A division (the Eagles are No. 9). They’re riding a 6-game winning streak and their lone loss was to undefeated Thomas Jefferson, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 4A and the sixth overall in the state.
Their offense is balanced and averages 136.6 passing yards and 198.4 rushing yards per game. Those prolific numbers are totaling 38 points per night for the Warrior offense.
“They have no weaknesses really,” Nagle said of Central Valley. “Offensively, they do a really nice job with RPO’s (run-pass option). They’re probably the best high school football team I’ve seem with RPO’s in my 15 years. They’re very athletic up front, the receivers are really fast and their quarterback is probably one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the state of Pennsylvania. “
Central Valley’s Ameer Dudley is a dynamic quarterback. He’s thrown for 21 touchdowns, and on the ground he’s rushed for 465 yards and another eight scores. His top target, Jawon Hall, has 723 receiving yards and eight scores.
“Dudley can hurt you with his arms and he can hurt you with his legs,” Nagle said of the Warrior quarterback. “He makes all the right reads on the RPO play. If we can get to him and get him confused, it’s going to help out tremendously.”
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
This is a hard selection this week, as every matchup on the field pivotal. But BEA’s offensive line’s ability to protect quarterback Jaden Jones and create gaps for the run game is a necessity for the Eagles, but it’s going to be tough.
Central Valley’s defensive line is showered with great players. They’ve totaled 36 sacks and 111 tackles for loss this season.
“We’re throwing some new things at the boys this week for some blocking schemes,” Nagle explained. “Central has a sophomore (Sean Fitzsimmons) who’s the best defensive lineman we’ve seen all year, and he’ll be an elite Division I kid. So we have to protect Jones, no doubt, and give him some time.”
The Eagles have received tremendous support during their playoff push.
This week they received a lofty amount of donations from local businesses, resulting in three charter buses of fans making the trip up to Moon Area High School tonight.
“I’d absolutely like to thank everyone who’s come out [and supported us],” Nagle said. “It’s an exciting time for BEA football and the community.”
BEA WILL WIN IF
“We limit their run, play great up front and do a nice job in the back end. And offensively we’ve got to take our time. When our playmakers get the ball in their hands they’ve got to make plays,” Nagle said.