It all began in 1955.
It was the first time that Bald Eagle Area and Bellefonte squared off on the football field.
Twenty-six years later, a new tradition began and a new name was created.
The Curtin Bowl.
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“Its something that you look forward to every single year,” Eagles coach Jesse Nagle said. “You don’t look for it until week 10, but this is a huge game for us. There is a lot of things riding on this game.”
“Its just so important to each community,” Red Raiders coach Shanon Manning said. “Trying to get the win for your community means a lot.”
Nagle’s team has the advantage in the series as BEA holds the lead 35-25-1, but Bellefonte comes into the game as the title holder after a 43-7 romp last season. The Red Raiders ran like crazy over the Eagles’ defense for 369 yards.
Friday’s game comes with playoff implications on the line for both teams. However, its not as easy as “win and you’re in.”
For Bellefonte, the team trails Somerset by 120 points for the final spot in the Class AAAA playoffs. With a win over BEA, the Red Raiders would be tied after a loss from Somerset to Bishop Guilfoyle. It would go down to the third tie-breaker between the two schools — which is according to the district website, opponents’ winning percentage.
“It may come down to P-O to beat St. Joe’s on Saturday,” Manning said of reaching the playoffs. “From a personal standpoint, it would be tremendous from where we’ve come in the last few years to be in the playoffs. It’s been a goal that we set for a long, long time and it just seems kind of fitting that it comes down to the Curtin Bowl.”
For the Eagles, they sit 80 points out of the final Class AAA playoff spot. They would have to leap frog Bedford and Penn Cambria to get in. If BEA picks up the win, the team would receive 150 points. They would need some help as Bedford and Penn Cambria both would need to lose. Bedford plays at Forest Hills, while Penn Cambria hosts Bishop McCort.
“I’ve harped to the kids, ‘This is a one game season at this point,’” Nagle said. “Some things have to happen, but if we can get this one then once you get in the playoffs its 0-0. We got to make the most of it.”
What makes this game even more entertaining is that both team’s are coming off an unusual week.
Each team had its game pushed to Monday due to the flooding in the area last Friday. Bellefonte fell to Chestnut Ridge at home, 30-22, after trailing by 23 at the half. It was a game that the Red Raiders dominated the second half but looked very sloppy in the first half with turnovers and costly penalties.
“If this game had ended up 46-0, there wouldn’t be a whole lot to carry into Friday,” Manning said after the loss. “This team has done this all year long. They are like a batter. They are streaky. When they start hitting, they just take off.”
The complete opposite could be said for BEA. The Eagles held a 10-8 advantage at the half. They were unable to put a scrappy Jersey Shore team away in 28-10 loss.
The week leading up was played out much differently too.
Bellefonte moved its practices around. According to Manning, the Red Raiders were going to treat the beginning of the week like a normal week with a few exceptions. Tuesday was treated like a Monday practice but pads were worn. The second half of practice was split up between the film room, weight room and more time on the field. Wednesday was going to be a normal Tuesday practice but from there it changed.
“Thursday will be back to pregame but won’t be normal pregame,” Manning said on Monday, “because your still polishing up things that were installed on Wednesday. Not having your install day is going to hurt.”
Bald Eagle Area didn’t make it back to Wingate until about 10:30-11 p.m. on Monday, according to Nagle. The Eagles took some lumps in the loss. Nagle and his staff felt like they should use the week to get 100 percent healthy. They didn’t plan on hitting much and instead do a lot of walk throughs and install the game plan.
“We are trying to get kids recouped,” Nagle said outside the team’s film room on Tuesday. “I think at this point of the season, if you don’t know how to tackle and do things like that your going to be in trouble any way. We are trying to get healthy and recoup so that way we are at full strength for Friday night.”