Moments after the Bald Eagle Area football team posed for a team photo on the field, sophomore standouts Gage McClenahan and Matthew Reese recalled the start of their friendship.
“I wanted to draw better than him in kindergarten,” McClenahan said.
Then Reese chimed in: “It’s always a competition with us.”
McClenahan and Reese laughed as they looked back at their elementary school days after leading the Eagles to a 33-6 win over Penns Valley on Friday night. BEA captured the Iron Bell trophy and improved its record to 3-0 for the first time since 2013, which marks the last year the Eagles reached the District 6 playoffs. BEA came into this season shooting to return to the postseason with a roster filled with talented players like McClenahan and Reese.
McClenahan and Reese made their mark against the Rams (1-2) to continue BEA’s strong start — they each scored two touchdowns apiece while combining for 226 total yards. Together, they accounted for 55 percent of the Eagles’ offense.
McClenahan sprinted ahead of his teammates to grab the Iron Bell trophy before the team gathered around Eagles coach Jesse Nagle. The coach congratulated his team on the win and held out three fingers while saying, “3-0 feels good, doesn’t it?” The team then posed for a quick photo on the field.
McClenahan sparked his team in the first half and carried the load out of the backfield with starting running back/safety Blake Roberts out due to an ankle injury.
“He’ll be back next week,” Nagle said. “Honestly, he probably could have limped around a little bit today and played a little bit, but we just decided to hold him out.”
McClenahan finished with 18 carries for 120 yards to power the running game. He broke free for his first big run during the team’s first drive, breaking a handful of tackles on a 31-yard gain to move BEA into the red zone. And one play after that drive stalled at the 5-yard line, McClenahan returned an interception eight yards for a touchdown to put his team on the board with 7:12 left in the first quarter.
He found the end zone again on an eight-yard run to push the Eagles ahead 12-0 in the second quarter, bursting around the edge and leaping over a low tackle attempt across the goal line.
“That’s my brother,” said Reese, who had four catches for 81 yards. “He’s doing it for all of us.”
BEA took that 12-0 lead into halftime, and Reese made sure to match his best friend’s two-touchdown effort in the second half. Reese burned the Penns Valley defense for a 54-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the third quarter and hauled in a five-yard touchdown pass on the following drive to give the Eagles a 26-0 lead.
“I see him running and I think, ‘Oh he’s about to get tackled,’ and he just passes people,” McClenahan said. “He’s so fast.”
The best friends push each other to be better on the football field like they did throughout their childhood. And that showed Firday night.
Nagle noted his sophomore duo is “special” and added their friendship is typical on this year’s roster.
“We’re very close as a team,” Nagle said. “I’ve never been around a team so close — a lot of great friends, they hang out all the time together. Those two are just two examples, but there’s a very, very tight-knit group here.”