Defense has always been a strong part of State College’s football season.
The Little Lions came into Friday night’s PIAA Class 6A first-round game with Williamsport giving up just 10.6 points per game.
The Millionaires came in averaging 50 points per game. So, something had to give.
State College dug itself too big of a hole in a 35-28 loss at Selinsgrove High School.
“Our defense has played great all year long,” Little Lions coach Matt Lintal said. “This is the most we have given up all year. Huge credit to Williamsport and their explosiveness and what they do. It wasn’t for a lack of effort on our kids’ part.”
The Millionaires (12-1) raced out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, took a 14-point lead into halftime and held off the Little Lions in the second half.
Treyson Potts scored first for Williamsport on a one-yard run midway through the first quarter. Potts, who needed 115 yards rushing to eclipse 2,000 on the year, only had 32 yards on 13 carries.
It was quarterback Isaiah Hankins and receiver Elliott Walker who did most of the damage for the Millionaires.
Following Potts’ touchdown, the duo connected on the next three Williamsport scores. The first came with 7:33 remaining in the first half on a 31-yard strike. The second came three minutes later on an 18-yard score. The final one was an 80-yard heave that gave the Millionaires a 28-7 lead.
Hankins finished the game with 230 yards passing, 83 yards rushing, three passing scores — all to Walker — and a rushing score. Walker had four receptions for 136 yards.
“They are dynamic athletes,” Lintal said. “They are tough in space. It’s a heck of a football team. They did some nice things schematically that kind of slowed us down a little bit.”
Trailing 21-0, the Little Lions used a two-play drive from their own 29 in just 22 seconds to shake off the rust and begin their rally. The drive started with Tyler Snyder hitting Noah Woods for a 65-yard pass. Woods fought off a couple Williamsport defenders to get to the seven-yard line. Snyder connected with Brandon Clark on the next snap for the score.
State College (10-2) tried an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff and recovered it. However, they were unable to gain any points off the drive.
The Little Lions cut their deficit to 28-14 thanks to a one-yard score from Pete Haffner out of their beast package. Haffner lined up at quarterback and followed the blocks of Kam’Ron Walker and Drew Linnes and looked for a hole. Haffner went around the left side for the score on fourth-and-goal with 2.1 seconds remaining in the half.
“We kind of had that feeling of playing catch up the whole time,” Lintal said. “It got us a little bit out of our game plan. The kids adjusted really well.”
Adjust they did.
State College used another onside kick to gain another possession at the start of the second half. The Little Lions began their drive at the Millionaires’ 49.
A Cohen Russell 14-yard run and a personal foul quickly moved State College to the 19. From there, Snyder hooked up with Woods for one of their two scores on the night to get the Little Lions within 28-21 with 11:07 left in the third quarter.
The third quarter came to a close with an untimed down for Williamsport due a holding penalty. Hankins scored on a 23-yard scamper.
State College was able to get within seven points again with 8:03 left in the game when Snyder and Woods connected for a 26-yard touchdown.
The teams traded possessions the rest of the way as the Millionaires looked to get a field goal with 1:04 to go. However, they missed and the Little Lions still had hope.
They began the drive at their own 20. They got to around midfield but some hopeful heaves just didn’t come to fruition.
“I’m so proud of our kids’ effort all year long,” Lintal said. “Our kids never quit. We are going to take a deep breath, reflect and enjoy a really successful season and one we should be proud about.”