WINGATE — The Bald Eagle Area football team is viewing each of their final games of the regular season as a playoff game. One hiccup in terms of wins and losses and the Eagles could be on the outside looking in.
Going into Friday night’s matchup with Centre County rival Penns Valley, the Eagles were holding onto a precarious eighth spot in the District Class AA rankings, 10 points ahead of Richland and 20 in front of Central.
If indeed the Eagles are in the playoff mode, they took one more step toward a possible berth in the District 6 Class AA tournament Friday night when they held off a stubborn Penns Valley Ram team for a hard-fought 41-28 win at Alumni Stadium.
“Tonight wasn’t exactly what I wanted to see,” said BEA head coach Jack Tobias. “We went up by something like 41-something at the half, but we just didn’t put them away. We are letting people hanging around and going into this part of the season, you just can’t afford to do that. We have to tighten some things up both offensively and defensively. We can’t continue to give up big plays, especially passes, and we just have to find a way to stop people.”
In addition to keeping their playoff hopes alive with the win, the Eagles also claimed possession of the Iron Bell trophy.
“That had a lot to do with this game tonight,” said Jack Tobias. “We had pictures all over the locker room from last year and at the end of the game, we weren’t holding the bell. We came up a little bit short last year and we wanted to make sure that it didn’t happen again this year. It was senior night and the guys stepped up to make some big plays when they had to. I am proud of every one of them. They have done an awesome job and I think this is the first time we have been five-hundred here at Bald Eagle at this stage of the season in a long time.”
As for the Rams (0-8), their focus was continuing to play hard and put a complete game together, something they haven’t quite been able to do thus far this season.
“We have made progress and as I said before, it is just not enough to get over the hump,” said Penns Valley head coach Marty Tobias. “We have been trying hard to put a complete game together and again tonight, we didn’t. The penalties and a couple of costly turnovers really set us back.”
But regardless of the final score, the Penns Valley coach liked what he saw from his team as far as improved play and staying in the game.
“I was really pleased with the resiliency of the kids and the way they kept fighting,” said Penns Valley head coach Marty Tobias. “We were able to put some points on the board which allowed us to stay close and get us out of the hole we dug for ourselves early in the game. They attacked the edges a couple of times, got us off balance in a couple of sequences and we had trouble containing their pass offense.”
Leading the Ram squad was the passing combination of quarterback Sam Snyder to wideout Kevin Montminy who hooked up eight times for 154 yards. On the ground, the Rams spread the wealth around as Austin Auman rushed for 54 yards, Snyder tossed in another 42 and Mike Owens chipped in with 34.
Although impressed with the Rams offensive output, Jack Tobias was most impressed with two-way Elliot Dillon.
“He (Dillon) did an outstanding job for them, especially on the defensive line,” said Tobias. “He got good penetration all night long and that took a lot of counters away from us. He just did a lot of things to disrupt a many of the things we do offensively. But overall, I have to give a lot of credit to them. They are 0-8, they are a young team and they just played a heckuva ball game. There are a lot of young guys on that team and I know that Marty (Tobias) will get them together and they will be a lot better next year.”
Offensively, Eagle quarterback Justin Taylor had a good night throwing the ball, completing 9-of-15 passes for 210 yards and a pair of scores. Kyle Womer caught four of Taylor’s aerials for 142 yards and one score, while Coleman Hoffman hauled in four passes for 40 yards and another Eagle TD.
“Those guys (Taylor and Womer) have been on all year long,” said the Eagle coach. “Kyle could have had a couple more there if we wouldn’t have tripped on one, but again, those guys have been real consistent for us all year long. They are both having a good year, they are seniors and I am just happy for them.”
Marty Tobias was impressed with the Eagles’ air attack.
“The Taylor kid throws a good ball and they have some good receivers,” said Marty Tobias. “They have been doing it all year and tonight, we just couldn’t stop them.”
When Taylor wasn’t throwing the ball to Womer, Hoffman and others, Cody Hicks provided a pair of strong legs to carry the ball eight times for 95 yards and three touchdowns.
“I don’t what coach Tobias had planned to do,” said Hicks about getting a few more touches. When I get the ball, I always run hard. We also have a lot of strong guys up front on the line and that makes it a lot easier to run the ball. As for playing for the bell, it is always nice to have something to play for in addition to winning the game.”