HARRISBURG — State College traveled to Harrisburg with a roster of 105 led by 38 capable seniors, but on Saturday afternoon the Little Lions followed a sophomore to an important 29-7 victory at Severance Field.
Jordan Misher is still adjusting to the speed of varsity football so for now his approach isn’t complicated.
“I just go to green,” said Misher, whose 143 yards and two rushing touchdowns helped the Little Lions (2-2) get back to .500 as they prepare to host Central Dauphin (2-2) Friday at Memorial Field.
Misher, who also added a 14-yard touchdown catch, certainly wasn’t the only State College standout.
Senior quarterback Patrick Irwin rushed for 102 yards and a score, and senior linebacker Pat Begg blocked a punt, recovered the loose ball and also finished with a sack.
Anthony Paffie-Misher, another senior, made a game-changing, one-handed interception in the end zone that helped secure a victory.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Paffie-Misher of the win. “We worked hard this week. We needed this win to change the season.”
Harrisburg did its best to help. The Cougars (1-3) committed 13 penalties for 119 yards, which negated much of the team’s 311 total yards, which fell just short of the Lions’ 321.
Harrisburg’s lack of discipline seeped into poor tackling attempts that made a 5-foot-10, 183-pound sophomore look like a grown man.
“The runs that Jordan made are runs that a senior usually makes,” said State College coach Al Wolski. “He doesn’t stop his legs, he keeps driving and looking for that extra yard and that’s big time for a sophomore.”
With the Little Lions ahead 15-7 and driving in the fourth quarter, Misher took a handoff from Irwin at the Cougars’ 22 and broke free briefly before finding a scrum at the 10. However, Misher never stopped moving and eventually dragged the pile into the end zone giving State College a 22-7 lead.
“It was all about technique for our O-line,” Misher said. “We were bigger, stronger, but it was all about technique.
“And once the holes were there, I just used my speed and strength to break through arm tackles and go to green.”
Tackles Jordan Good and Nick Miller, guards Jake Stauffer and Mitch Strawser and center Austin Peck dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half. The team’s first three drives netted two touchdowns and a 22-yard Kevin Cramer field goal to end the first half. The drives went 13 plays for 68 yards, 13 plays for 80 yards and 10 plays for 62 yards.
The Cougars adjusted with a five-man front in the second, but the results were the same. Even when the Cougars managed penetration, both Misher and Irwin racked up several yards after first contact.
“It’s a great feeling actually,” Misher said of breaking tackles. “I just lean forward, tuck the ball to make sure it’s tight and I just let the tacklers bounce off me. I just drive my legs.”
The State College secondary was still vulnerable at times against a team without a bona fide running back. The Cougars lost senior tailback Robert Martin III to a season-ending knee injury earlier this season. Harrisburg quarterback Mikell Clark went 12 for 20 for 168 yards.
But holding a still speedy Harrisburg offense to just one score on Darian Davis-Raye’s 28-yard run shows progress from a squad that allowed 28 and 29 points in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively.
The team’s improving defense coupled with Misher as an emerging offensive threat should give the Little Lions momentum against the Rams, who whipped the Lions 32-7 last season.
“Big momentum,” Misher said. “We have a tough game (Central Dauphin). We just have to fight hard, have a good week of practice and I think we’ll do fine.”