Bald Eagle Area high football players have heard the buzz.
The talk has started to pick up in the hallways at school. Varsity players hear the encouragement from their junior high teammates. They hear it from their folks when they return home from football practice.
Theyll see it when their fans arrive in full force tonight in Roaring Spring for the undefeated Eagles tilt against Central.
The number of people that are showing up at games and the fans cheering, the games have gone down to the wire and the people love that, BEA coach Jack Tobias said. I just think its a good thing for the community. Its a good thing for the program. For all the hard work these guys put in, its just an awesome start to the year. We want to make sure we focus every week from here on out.
The Scarlet Dragons (3-1) have the Eagles full attention.
So far, Central has averaged more than 31 points behind an explosive offense led by shifty, dual-threat quarterback Austin Cunningham and powerful tailback Bradi Moore. The Dragons feature back made quick work of Penns Valley last week, scoring four of Centrals six touchdowns in a 42-7 rout of the Rams.
While the Dragons were able to rest their starters for much of the second half, they didnt keep them from controlling the line of scrimmage for the majority of the night.
As the offensive line was opening holes for Moore to run through, the Central defensive front held Penns Valleys running attack to just 38 first-half yards, setting the stage early for the blowout.
Tobias and his assistants have preached up-tempo, physical football, combined with aggressive line play all week to prepare for what he believes will be a physical battle in the trenches.
I think our lines are pretty physical. I have confidence in our kids and I think its a matchup thats going to be a key to the game, Tobias said. The kids had a great week of practice and a great attitude. They come to work every day and were going in there with the mentality that were going to win the football game.
So far, success has bred confidence for the Eagles, who are off to their best start since the 1993 squad began 5-0.
Central coach Dave Baker is wary of an Eagles team he said has no pure standout player, but rather a team full of hard-nosed players who work well together. Baker said teams like BEA are tougher to prepare for than teams who rely on one or two skill players to dominate.
Their backs are quick. Theyre small but theyre pretty quick, Baker said of BEAs Dakota Bartley and Dion Barnard. The rest of their team, its not like they have a lot of great players. They just have a lot of good players.
Players who open holes and block downfield for speedsters like Barley and Barnard. Despite their lack of size both Bartley and Barnard are listed below 5-foot-8 and weigh in at 150 and 140 pounds, respectively both players have shown they can hit holes with force. They combined to rush for 184 yards in a win against Chestnut Ridge last week.
But BEA owes much of its early-season success to a snarling defense that has given up just over 17 points per game and has forced 11 turnovers. Against Chestnut Ridge, the BEA defense came up with three stops within the final six minutes to secure a 28-26 win.
It was the second nail-biter of the season for BEA, which edged Penns Valley 21-20 in Week 3. Central beat Chestnut Ridge by 31 points in each teams season opener and throttled the Rams last week.
Baker said he wouldnt put too much stock into what each team has done against common opponents.
You look at it and you say, Well, heres what they did. And you start to compare scores, which isnt a very smart thing to do because that can change, Baker said. Guys get hurt. This happens, that happens. Guys change their strategy.
Central will look to put the ball in the hands of its play-makers, Moore and Cunningham, who proved to be dangerous outside of the pocket with his running ability last week. Oftentimes, Penns Valley defensive backs cheated up when Cunningham rolled out. Instead of running, the Central quarterback tested the Rams with deep passes. Cunningham completed nine of 11 passes for 123 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Those guys really stood out on tape, Tobias said of Moore and Cunningham. We talked about being consistent. We have to keep contain, keep him in the pocket and make him throw the ball down the field. Hes very dangerous once he gets on the edge and he has a tendency to make plays.