The locker room scene after Philipsburg-Osceola’s season-opening win left junior linebacker Landon McDonald speechless.
Yelling and cheering highlighted a postgame celebration unlike anything that McDonald had experienced in his football career. Not even the team’s win over St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy on a Saturday afternoon in 2016 could match the victory over West Branch last Friday night. The Mounties reveled in the win, laughing hysterically at jokes and celebrating some more on the bus ride home.
“Nothing’s like winning on a Friday night,” said McDonald, a junior linebacker.
Philipsburg-Osceola (1-0) will hope to relive that atmosphere again at 7 p.m. Friday at Bald Eagle Area. The Eagles (1-0) also opened the season with a win, taking down Troy 33-13 last Friday, and both teams are now focused on their Mountain League matchup in Week 2. They’ve studied each other’s film from their season openers and haven’t given much thought to BEA’s 55-0 win over the Mounties last season.
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P-O coach Mike Mann already saw a different team on the field in last Friday’s 32-14 win over West Branch, while BEA coach Jesse Nagle was pleased with his team’s effort in its opener and hopes to see even more this Friday.
“A lot of the really good coaches always said you can tell a team from Week 1 to Week 2,” Nagle said. “We harped (on) that all week already that we want to see kids progress and learn and continue to develop.”
Nagle noted his team showed improvement offensively during its game against Troy as the Eagles scored 20 points in the fourth quarter. BEA put Gage McClenahan in position to make plays in a three-touchdown performance, and Mann said his Mounties will need to be ready for the shifty Eagles athlete who had two touchdowns in last year’s matchup in Philipsburg.
The BEA defense also turned in a solid performance in Week 1, holding Troy scoreless in three quarters. After facing a team that utilized the triple-option last week, the Eagles will face a spread offense similar to their own this week.
BEA reviewed clips of the Mounties’ win over West Branch, and the Eagles will be prepared with linebacker Kael Gardner spearheading the defensive effort.
“I like to go after it, just go after the ball,” said Gardner, who recorded 13 tackles and one sack against Troy. “I like to see my whole team like that. I like to be mean.”
While Gardner led BEA in tackles against Troy, McDonald finished with a team-high 18 tackles in the Mounties’ win over West Branch.
McDonald knows last week’s win marked the program’s first on a Friday night in a few years — last season’s win over St. Joseph’s came on a Saturday — as the team last won on a weekday during a 52-14 victory over Bellefonte on Sept. 13, 2013. That victory over the Red Raiders is also the program’s most recent win in Mountain League action.
“I think everybody’s just as hype, if not more about this one,” McDonald said. “I think this one would mean a lot to us because it is a Mountain League team, and the Mountain League is a pretty competitive conference.”
Mann said the Mounties know they can compete this season and added they showed their determination with their gang tackling on defense against West Branch. But the coach said his team’s aim isn’t to hang with BEA this Friday; the Mounties are preparing to leave Alumni Stadium with a win.
“That’s the mentality now,” Mann said. “We’re not hanging with anybody. We’re beating ’em. You have to do that. We don’t want to hang with people. We want to beat them.”
McDonald already sees a completely different attitude in this year’s team. The Mounties didn’t get “hype” about games in 2016, and some players didn’t have confidence in their chances every week. Still, through all the losses, McDonald tried to take a winning mentality into Friday nights, telling his teammates they could win if they played hard and fast.
“This year, I strongly believe that,” McDonald said at practice this week, turning and pointing to his P-O teammates on the field behind him, “and I think every guy out there does, too.”