HARRISBURG — A loss to a defending state champion, even a 25-point beatdown, does not translate into a crisis. Yet.
But after his Little Lions football team was crunched for a second straight week in a 32-7 loss to Central Dauphin Friday night, State College head coach Al Wolski suggested that his team needs to get its mind right and soon.
We have to get some leadership. We have to step it up in practice or we wont be very happy with our results, said Wolski, unable to hide both his disappointment and his sense of urgency.
The Little Lions 3-0 start has disappeared along with their rushing game: State College, held to 60 yards rushing the previous week by Harrisburg, netted even less 53 yards against the Rams, who dominated the Lions up front. The net result is losses of 21 and 25 points.
Worse, the Rams handled State College on the other side of the ball as well. Even though CD was banged up Penn State commit Zayd Issah was limited to just a few offensive plays thanks to a strained MCL the Rams Drew Scales more than made up the slack with a spectacular four-touchdown, 256-yard effort.
In short, the Little Lions couldnt get out of their own way or in Scales way, and that was a fatal combination.
Scales scored on touchdown runs of 9, 91, 3 and 1 yards, all part of his 189-yard, 23-carry rushing night enhanced by three pass receptions for 67 yards. As one might expect, the 91-yard score, which came midway through the second quarter was the backbreaker.
CD had taken a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter after Scales, who had scored the winning touchdown in last years PIAA Class AAAA championship game against North Penn, cut up a jet sweep on his 9-yard score, closing down an 80-yard drive.
State Highs Darian Herncane blocked the extra point.
To that point, CD was in control, but the Lions showed some signs of digging in, especially after forcing a three-and-out on CDs next offensive series, then punching a drive to the CD 39 before punting to the 9.
But just like that, Scales cut back another sweep right, darting through the State College pursuit for his 91-yard score at the 7:38 mark to make it 13-0.
And on State Colleges next offensive play, CDs Daylin Russo recovered a fumble at the State College 10. The Lions defense stuffed the Rams again, but Casey Hartzells 24-yard field goal put the Lions in a 16-0 hole.
Wolski, who had pitched an upset to his team all week, was disappointed in the glassy-eyed response, both in practice and in the game.
You get a chance to play the defending state champs, you expect to get a little more out of it and we didnt, Wolski said.
With his team receiving the ball to start the third quarter, Wolski pretty much put his eggs in that first possession basket .. and they came out scrambled.
A short kick return to the 16 was followed by a disastrous wild pitch that Wolski said was a big gainer had only the execution not been forgotten, giving CD good field position at midfield following a punt.
Eight plays later, Scales was in the end zone again, making it 22-0 with 6:39 left in the quarter.
State College quarterback Patrick Irwin, who had a strong game with 194 yards passing, came up with 40-yard pass-and-run to Sean King, who made a tough run to the CD 20, and followed up with a 20-yard strike for a score to Dan Fry.
But that was the end any more threats by the Lions, who never advanced the ball past midfield the remainder of the game and finished the second half with minus-10 yards rushing.
We approached this game like it was a big game because it was, Central Dauphin head coach Glenn McNamee said. We have a lot o respect for State College. They have a big, athletic line and they have playmakers.
But were in a good place with our program now, McNamee said. The players who can come in and do the job when were banged up like we were tonight, that number of players has grown.