State College coach Matt Lintal sees similarities in his team’s previous opponent and its next one.
Central Dauphin and McDowell both play the game with the same physicality.
“They do play a very physical brand of football,” Lintal said of McDowell. “They fly to the football on defense, they’re very aggressive defensively, they bring a lot of pressure and do some really nice things, so they try to create some havoc and make big plays on defense.”
The Little Lions (9-1) open postseason play against McDowell (9-1) in the District 6-10 Class 6A championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday at Clarion University.
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State College is coming off its first loss of the season, a 13-10 setback against Central Dauphin in a matchup between the top two teams in the Mid Penn Conference Commonwealth division. The Little Lions know the Rams are one of the best teams in the state — Central Dauphin finished 9-1 and earned the top seed in District 3 — so they’ve maintained their confidence going into Saturday.
“We feel like we didn’t play our best football and we’ve got to do that, especially at this time of year,” Lintal said.
Lintal saw his players start to move past the loss in the locker room last Friday, shifting their focus to the postseason and a familiar opponent.
The Little Lions beat the Trojans 48-40 in the state playoffs a year ago. McDowell quarterback Levi Becker threw for 401 yards and three touchdowns in the loss, and he’s back leading the team’s offense again.
Becker has thrown for 15 touchdowns and three interceptions and rushed for a team-high eight touchdowns this season.
“He’s an excellent quarterback — makes great reads, gets the ball out in a timely fashion,” Lintal said.
The Trojans have won seven straight games since their loss to Cathedral Prep, which finished the season with a 10-0 record.
Knowing McDowell’s defense looks to make big plays, Lintal said his offense will have opportunities for big plays.
Pete Haffner and Noah Woods have been two of the team’s top playmakers.
Haffner leads State College in rushing and has accounted for 13 touchdowns on the ground. Woods has more than 700 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches.
They’re surrounded by other talented players, too.
“We’ve had 17 different kids score points throughout the year,” Lintal said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of a team that has had that many different players contribute in terms of just points alone so that’s a pretty special thing.
“I think that’s a real tribute to these guys that when they’re trying to shut one guy down, the next guy steps up.”
Lintal said the players have embraced a selfless approach to make that possible.
“These guys want the ball, they want to make plays with the football and want that,” Lintal said. “But they know if they’re the ones out there blocking, then their buddy is the one making the big play.”
They’ll be looking for some big plays Saturday night as they aim to reach the state playoffs.
High school football
Who: State College vs. McDowell
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Clarion University
TV: WHVL (14)
Radio: WQWK 1450