Little Lions coach Matt Lintal said it is always part of the game plan to take advantage of Brandon Clark’s 6-foot-5 stature.
And that worked in State College’s favor on Friday night, as the senior wideout hauled in three receiving touchdowns during the 70-14 romp of Carlisle at Memorial Field.
“Anytime you can get a matchup we like out there, Brandon is our guy that is going to take advantage of things,” Lintal said. “We have a lot of faith and trust in him. When he comes off and says, ‘I got it,’ we believe him. Tonight, he came off and had it. We wanted to give him those opportunities.”
Despite Clark’s big performance, things still didn’t go as planned — at first — for the Little Lions.
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On the second play of the opening drive, State College fumbled the ball away to the Thundering Herd. Carlisle capitalized by scoring three plays later, about four minutes into the game.
The Little Lions responded in 54 seconds.
Tommy Friberg found an open Clark about seven yards downfield, hugging the home sideline. Clark ran away from a few defenders, juked another out of the way and fought off the tackle of another to go 65 yards for the equalizer.
“Not to be cocky or anything, but I think the game-changer was my first touchdown,” Clark said. “I think that changed the momentum.”
Added Lintal: “There is no doubt, that was a huge play in this football game to get the tide turned. He did it all on that play and managed to stay in bounds. That was a big, big play for us.”
It was just the beginning of the scoring barrage for State College, which recorded 70 straight points before Carlisle saw the end zone again.
The Herd didn’t help themselves either. They threw two interceptions on back-to-back possessions that the Little Lions turned into points.
The first drive ended with backup quarterback Brady Dorner tossing a halfback pass to Cohen Russell, who had to drag a foot to stay inbounds. Friberg then found Clark for his second score of the night. Tristen Lyons scored with no time on the clock to make it State College 28-7 after one quarter.
“It fizzled out,” Carlisle coach Brett Ickes said. “You can’t let good teams get the momentum. We had the momentum and a quick start to the game. But, once they started rolling, we couldn’t get the ball stopped. I tip my hat off to these guys.
“They’re very athletic and physical. They have all those things that you need to be a great team. They are well coached. They are going to be a good team to contend with in the state.”
Clark picked up his final score of the night on the Little Lions’ first possession of the second quarter. Friberg connected with Lyons for his fourth passing touchdown of the half and it was 42-7 State College at halftime.
Clark finished the night with five receptions for 101 yards and the three scores. Oh, and he also blocked a punt. Friberg meanwhile was 9 of 13 for 183 yards and the four passing scores. Friberg’s performance didn’t go unnoticed.
“He is very efficient, that is the amazing part. (Friberg) throws the ball with accuracy,” Ickes said. “They got great protection. Obviously, their offensive line, I don’t think we have a kid that big. They do a good job of mixing in the run and the pass.”
The Little Lions continued to roll in the second half. At one point, the scoreboard stopped working — maybe it couldn’t take all that lighting up.
Even the backups got in on the scoring spree. Kyle Domico ran the ball three times in the second half. He scored on two of the carries and finished with 60 yards rushing.
“Our young kids popped in the second half and kept putting the hammer down,” Lintal said. “The kids get their opportunity, and they want to try and make the most of it. We had some really great things in the special teams game. We had some really great things on offense and defense.”