Junior wideout Cohen Russell didn’t sugarcoat his words after State College’s first loss of the season Friday night.
The Little Lions trailed from start to finish in their 36-21 setback to Cumberland Valley, as they couldn’t stop the Eagles’ methodical rushing attack and never found their rhythm offensively.
“We need to wake up,” Russell said. “In practice, we need to start practicing harder, then executing faster in games and making smarter plays ’cause right now — my team right now, this feeling, we hate it. We don’t want to feel it again.”
With the sting of the team’s loss still fresh, Russell started thinking about the team’s next game against Central Dauphin East before he walked off the field Friday night. That mentality served Cumberland Valley (5-1) well after its first loss of the season last week against Central Dauphin, and it showed in the win over the Little Lions (5-1)
The Eagles piled up 231 yards rushing on 54 carries, controlling the tempo with their Wing-T offense to help limit opportunities for a Little Lions offense that averaged 57.6 points in the first five games of the season.
Cumberland Valley running back Jake Palmer led the team with 87 rushing yards on 23 carries, bruising fullback Galen Witmer finished with 58 yards on 10 carries, and Penn State commit Charlie Katshir added a touchdown run to power their team offensively. The success started with physical play at the line of scrimmage, something Cumberland Valley coach Michael Whitehead felt was missing in his team’s 20-14 loss to Central Dauphin last week.
“We challenged our guys this week to see if we could establish that tough run game,” Whitehead said. “We did, and then we mixed in some key passes here and there.”
The Eagles took control from the start with a 10-play, 63-yard drive — featuring 10 running plays and lasting more than four minutes — capped by Witmer’s four-yard touchdown run. Cumberland Valley burned nearly five minutes off the clock in the second quarter before quarterback Jared Plessinger scored on an eight-yard touchdown run and Cole McCoy punched in the two-point conversion to push the Eagles ahead 15-0 with 3:51 left in the first half.
“These kids know what they’re doing,” State College coach Matt Lintal said. “They play hard. They play fast. They play low. And they run the clock, and it really shortens the game, and you got to make the most of every possession.
“We left a few out there and didn’t really convert.”
With Cumberland Valley in control, the Little Lions had just three offensive possessions in the first half, including one that lasted 50 seconds and ended when Palmer picked off a pass by State College quarterback Tommy Friberg.
And the Little Lions never threatened to get back in the game in the second half, as they failed to convert on fourth down on the opening drive of the third quarter and Cumberland Valley responded on the ensuing drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass by Plessinger, who completed 7-of-8 passes for 145 yards and one touchdown.
Cumberland Valley took a commanding 22-7 lead into the fourth quarter and used five-plus minutes at the start of the quarter on their way down the field for Katshir’s touchdown.
“It puts a lot of pressure on the kids because they know how important it is,” Lintal said. “They know how crucial it is. They know they’re not getting the ball back until the next quarter.”
The Little Lions will look to bounce back next week after being humbled by Cumberland Valley on Friday night.
“Right now, this is over,” Russell said. “Right now, I really hate this feeling.”
Note: State College running back Isaiah Edwards was limited to one carry Friday night — on the team’s second offensive play — due to injury. “We practiced all week with him at running back, so we had to adjust on the fly,” Lintal said. “That wasn’t ideal that we had to try to overcome that.”