Tristen Lyons cracked a smile as he discussed State College’s near-perfect first half in its season opener.
The senior running back said his team didn’t expect to roll to a blowout win, but that’s exactly what the Little Lions did in their 45-12 victory over J.P. McCaskey on Friday night.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Lyons said with a slight shake of his head, “it was just a great start.”
Lyons pointed out that everybody did their job for the Little Lions, and it showed from the start. Six players scored touchdowns in the first two quarters to help State College build a 45-6 halftime lead. The Little Lions (1-0) ran the ball effectively in the dominant first half with 160 yards on 25 carries and their quarterbacks combined to complete 70 percent of their passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns by halftime. The defense matched that performance, limiting McCaskey to 23 total yards and one first down in addition to returning an interception for a touchdown.
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The dominant effort in the first half led to a running clock in the final two quarters, with most of State College’s playmakers watching from the sideline with their helmets off or resting atop their heads at different points.
State College senior defensive back Paul Olivett said he didn’t think the first half could have gone any better — he loved the defensive performance and appreciated the offense’s efficiency.
Though Lyons and Olivett offered similar glowing assessments, Little Lions coach Matt Lintal saw room for improvement.
“Obviously we had a little bit of adversity there with an interception, and the kids responded great,” Lintal said. “There was never any panic. I’m really proud of this group of guys.”
State College started the game with an 11-play, 65-yard drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown by Lyons. The Little Lions ran the ball on every play, and Lyons carried the load with 48 yards rushing on eight carries.
The Little Lions spread the ball around to a variety of players the rest of the night and utilized two quarterbacks.
Little Lions junior Tommy Friberg started and finished 6 for 7 for 79 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and sophomore Brady Dorner rushed for 54 yards and one touchdown on eight carries.
“Both of those kids are tremendous playmakers and really understand the game, and they’ve done a fabulous job,” Lintal said. “They really just keep pushing each other. It’s such a positive experience out of both of them. For a junior and a sophomore, we’re really excited about both of their futures.”
Friberg bounced back after McCaskey’s Isiah Speller picked off his second passing attempt and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown to pull his team within 7-6. Friberg lobbed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Clark in the first quarter and later connected with Anthony Mobley for a sliding 15-yard touchdown in the second quarter to push the lead to 42-6.
Dorner entered for State College’s first drive of the second quarter and accounted for all 42 yards on the ground during another touchdown drive. The quarterback broke a handful of tackles on his first carry for 21 yards and punched in a one-yard touchdown run to make it 28-6.
The defense contributed to the high-scoring first half, too, thanks to Olivett, who returned one of his two interceptions 22 yards for a score.
“That was my first touchdown as a varsity player, so that was super exciting,” Olivett said. “Getting two like that, that’s crazy.”
Once the final seconds ticked away on their season-opening win, the Little Lions wore smiles and sang the alma mater with their helmets raised in the air.
“I think the guys really played within what we ask of ‘em — played with great effort, played with a great attitude and really played as a team,” Lintal said. “Everybody did their part and when their number was called, they stepped up.”