Central Mountain (0-1) at State College (0-1)
Time, place: 7 p.m., Memorial Field, State College.
Coaches: SC — Al Wolski, 10th season; CM — Vincent Kishbaugh
Last meeting: State College won 36-7, last season
Key players: SC — Patrick Irwin, QB; CM — Bryce Bitner
The skinny: As State College continues to look for playmakers offensively, its defense will need to hold the fort while new faces emerge.
When the Little Lions (0-1) play host to Central Mountain (0-1) on Friday, the Wildcats’ big-play capabilities should prove to be a threat.
Sophomore quarterback Bryce Bitner threw for 159 yards and three touchdowns on 7-for-14 passing in Central Mountain’s 24-21 loss to Williamsport (1-0) in week one. Four of those receptions went to senior Cody Barner, who finished with 100 yards receiving and two scores.
“We expect to see what we’ve seen the last several years (from Central Mountain),” said State College head coach Al Wolski, “a tough, physical football team.”
Nigel English, a senior running back, picked up 78 of the team’s 140 yards in week one on 11 carries.
If the Little Lions can slow the Wildcats they must bring numbers to the ball.
“That’s definitely going to be a big emphasis,” said linebacker Ben Roeshot. “We definitely have to contain on the outside and push it back in so we can gang tackle.”
If executed properly, that plan could relieve pressure while the offense looks to get contributions from someone other than Patrick Irwin.
The senior quarterback rushed for 106 yards and a score on just 16 carries and threw for another 71 yards on 11-for-21 passing. However, State College struggled to score in its 14-10 loss to Liberty.
Sophomore Jordan Misher rushed 11 times for 58 yards and senior Anthony Paffie-Misher rushed twice for 23 yards, but the Little Lions’ only touchdown came on a 54-yard run by Irwin in the first quarter.
In fact, in combination with Irwin’s 177 total yards, the trio made up 258 of the team’s 264 yards of total offense.
“We feel we have some (other) guys,” Wolski said. “We just weren’t able to move the ball when we got them the ball. Anthony Paffie-Misher is a nice ball player that can catch and run with it, and Jake Knouse also is a guy with potential to make some big plays?”
The running game is the strength of the State College offense, a fact that bodes well against a Central Mountain team that gave up 229 and three scores on the ground against Williamsport.
Millionaires senior Isaac Foust rushed 30 times for 186 of those yards and added two touchdowns.
The Wildcats’ defense did force two interceptions and recover a fumble.
“You always try to come out plus-two on the turnover margin,” Wolski said. “Depending on where you give them the ball it’s crucial.”
After starting 3-0 last season en route to a 9-4 overall record and District 6 title, the idea of starting 0-2 isn’t going to make Roeshot panic.
“We just have to treat every game like it’s our last,” the senior said. “Whether we’re 1-0 or 0-1, we have to go into it with the same mindset.”