You might think a football team that throttled its playoff opponent by 29 points during the regular season would expect an easy Round 2.
State College coach Al Wolski isn't buying that. Wolski's second-seeded Little Lions (7-3) tackle No. 3 Central Mountain (6-4) in the opening round of the District 6-9 Class AAAA playoffs at 7 p.m. tonight at Memorial Field. The winner plays at top-seeded DuBois for the district crown.
The first contest between the two was no contest at all. State College dominated 36-7 when the teams met in Week 2, holding the Wildcats scoreless through three quarters.
That result holds little meaning for Wolski..
“We’re starting as if we’ve never played them before and the score is 0-0,” Wolski said. “They’re on a two-game winning streak … and they have a running back that can score any time he touches the ball.”
Von Walker dangerous. The senior quarterback/running back has passed for 1,066 yards and rushed for another 1,489. He’s also accounted for 21 of the Wildcats’ 35 offensive touchdowns with six coming in the air and 15 on the ground. He had a career night against Bellefonte, rushing for 362 yards and six touchdowns in a 50-14 win.
In the Week 2 matchup against the Little Lions, Walker played mostly tailback, but now he’s taking almost all of the Wildcats’ snaps at quarterback.
“He touches the ball on every play and that’s probably worse (for us),” Wolski said. “Every step he takes is at full speed. He’s not only a great athlete but he plays the game at full speed. That’s what’s always impressed me.”
Walker has accumulated 693 total yards in wins against Athens and Jersey Shore to close out the season. The State College defense kept Walker out of the end zone in their previous matchup, but he ran for 101 yards on just 15 carries.
“We have to control the ball and keep it out of his hands,” Wolski said. “He is a good one, but if we keep it out of his hands they can’t score.”
For the Little Lions’ offense, there are plenty of capable hands that can give Central Mountain problems.
Patrick Irwin was efficient in the air and on the ground last week in the Little Lions 17-14 loss to Cumberland Valley. The junior quarterback went 11 for 19 for 139 yards and both State College touchdowns. He also rushed 15 times for 80 yards.
“He can run and he can throw a little bit, too,” Wolski said. “And, he’s starting to learn and get a little more confidence each game.”
But the Little Lions’ offense is balanced, getting significant contributions from several ball carriers. As a team, State College has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards with no single player eclipsing 500 yards. Senior Ryan Goeke leads the team with 475 yards rushing. Andrew Kelly (473), Irwin (301) and Ebrahim Britton (279) are capable of big games.
Wolksi said they will need that kind of balance against a tough Wildcat defense. “They’re tough hard-nosed kids,” Wolski said. “They hit the heck out of you and they did that the first game.
“We are taking them serious. We’ve watched tape on them the last two games and they put up a lot of points and they really hit and come after you.”