WINGATE — In spite of a power outage, Bald Eagle Area played lights out football in the first half and took a 14-6 lead to the locker room against Central Friday night.
But in the second half the Scarlet Dragons had a power surge and reeled in the Eagles for a 33-14 victory at Alumni Stadium.
A blown transformer rendered the scoreboard inoperable for the game but nothing could slow the Dragons in the second half as they stayed exclusively on the ground to wear down the upset-minded Eagles. At the same time, the Central defense threw up a stop sign on BEA, limiting the Eagles to two net yards and no first downs in the second half while sacking quarterback Jason Jones seven times over the final 24 minutes.
No one saw that coming in the first half as the Eagles jolted the once-beaten Dragons immediately as Bryan Greene took the opening kickoff 87 yards for a score and Tyler Schall made it 7-0 just 12 seconds into the game.
The Dragons answered right away as Austin Cunningham found Mike Mock for a 34-yard strike at the 9:10 mark but the PAT kick failed, leaving the Eagles on top. The Dragons had started on their own 11 but on second down Cunningham broke several tackles and went for 43 yards to jump start the drive.
Late in the quarter, BEA marched from its own 20 to the Dragon 33 thanks to a 19-yard run by Kaleb Weaver and a 25-yard burst by Dakota Bartley. From the 33 Jones hit Bryce Green in the left flat. Greene juked a tackler and bolted down the sideline for the score.
On Central’s third play from scrimmage, Cunningham was intercepted at the BEA 30 by Ryan Watkins and the Eagles took off on another drive that carried to the Central 9. On second down, Jones and Bryce Greene hooked up for a completion to the 1 but a holding penalty wiped out the gain, sending BEA back to the 24, Jones was sacked on the next two plays to send BEA back to the 37 from where it was forced to punt the ball, and it’s best chance for an upset, away.
“That was the turning point right there,” said Eagle Coach Jack Tobias. “Instead of going in at the half up 21-6 it was 14-6 and we were in a game. You have to convert those opportunities. They have great playmakers. That’s why they’re ranked in the state. ‘’
After seeing two drives stopped by BEA interceptions, Central coach Dave Baker took the air out of the ball and relied on quarterback Austin Cunningham and running back Bradi Moore to take over the game in the second half.
Taking the second half kickoff Central moved from its own 35 to the BEA 10 where Cunningham took it in at the 9:00 mark to make it 14-12 but the pass for the two-point conversion failed.
The Dragons forced a three-and-out on BEA’s first possession of the half, then took off on a 70-yard drive that was capped by Zac Emerick’s 12-yard run. Noah Benton threw to Mike Mock for the conversion with 48 seconds left in the quarter to put the Dragons in the lead for good 20-14.
Central recovered an on-sides kick to give itself a short field following the touchdown and drove 45 yards in two plays with Cunningham going 36 yards for the backbreaker. The run for the two-point conversion failed, leaving the score at 26-14 with 11:45 left in the game.
And two possessions later, after forcing the Eagles to punt, Cunningham returned the kick 42 yards for the final score. Zack Slagenweit booted the extra point to set the final score.
BEA was unable to muster a first down in the second half as the Dragons turned up the heat on Jones.
“We have some players we wanted to get in there to put more pressure on the quarterback and help our pass defense,” said Central Coach Dave Baker. “But Bald Eagle really played well in the beginning of the game. They have some quick kids and they played good pass defense. We didn’t play as well as we could have but they made some nice plays.
“In the second half we just decided to run the ball. Too many things can go wrong when you try to pass. They made a couple of nice interceptions. Their safety (Schall) ran a long way across the field to make that second interception.”
Moore carried the ball 21 times for 170 yards and Cunningham added 115 on 13 carries for the Dragons. BEA, meanwhile, was held to 51 yards rushing and 135 yards in total offense. BEA was also penalized nine times for 90 yards to further cripple the offense.
“You get called for holding, you have to throw the ball and teams just pin their ears back and come at you,” Tobias said. “And we lost Tanner Cramer early in the game. You lose a guy like that, who is one of your best run blockers, and it takes a toll on the team. It makes an impact on the other kids. We had to move a couple of guys around to fill in for him then the kids get frustrated, they’re not used to communicating with each other.
“We were able to throw some quick passes on them early and we were hoping to be able to stretch the field when they brought their corners and safeties up. But just can’t take those sacks. We have to learn to throw the ball away, throw it high and out of bounds. Jason’s a young quarterback and those are the things he’ll learn as he goes along.
“We played well in the first half. And I wasn’t disappointed in their effort in the second half. It just comes down to keeping your focus. Other teams have been in multiple big games and we haven’t been in those games that often. We have to learn to stay on an even keel.”