Two teams headed in opposite directions will clash tonight as Cumberland Valley (6-3), loser of its last two, and State College (7-2), winner of its last four, collide at Memorial Field.
State College forced six turnovers last week in its 20-13 victory over Mifflin County. Darian Herncane and Ebrahim Britton, both senior defensive backs, each intercepted a two passes with Herncane returning one 96 yards for a score as Britton escorted him down the sideline.
Last season, the Eagles beat the Little Lions 45-21, keeping the ball on the ground 54 times for 286 yards and forcing two State College interceptions.
“They have a couple of people who do an excellent job carrying the ball,” said State College coach Al Wolski of the Eagles. “They run the Wing-T and they just keep coming at you.”
The Eagles come to State College looking to put an end to their skid. Last week they lost 34-14 to Harrisburg and the week before they lost 35-28 to Central Dauphin despite gaining over 300 yards on the ground. Both of those teams have also beaten State College this season.
Jeremy Salmon is the Eagles featured back and the Little Lions will have to find a way to slow him down. At 6-foot-3 and 237 pounds, Salmon has accumulated 786 yards this season to go along with 16 rushing touchdowns.
“It’s going to take discipline and reading your (responsibilities),” Wolski said of slowing down Salmon. “He’s a big a kid and he runs well and being able to contain him, who’s been most of their offense, is a big key.”
The Little Lions have their own rushing attack as well. Last week, senior Andrew Kelly rushed just nine times but made the most of his carries with 101 yards. Kelly is the team’s leading rusher on the season with 470 yards and also leads the team in rushing touchdowns with four. Balancing the Little Lion ground attack is senior fullback Ryan Goeke who has 396 rushing yards on a team-high 78 attempts.
Wolski is concerned with missing two days of practice time because of Hurricane Sandy. To recoup some of that missed time, Wolski extended practice on Wednesday and Thursday but said it’s hard to prepare in that short a time frame.
The Little Lions have thrived despite adversity. During its current streak, State College has overcome several injuries with reserves giving quality production.
“In our offensive line last week we were without a starting guard,” Wolski said. “So that ability to have enough depth and have (Brandon Quay) come in and do a great job has really helped us.”
The Little Lions already are guaranteed a playoff spot, but a win over Cumberland Valley could still have serious playoff ramifications.
“We mentioned playoffs this week only because this game could determine where we go,” Wolski said. “This game is important to us in itself because we want to do as well as we can in the Mid-Penn. It also could have an impact for us in terms of where we’re seeded so it’s an important game for us.”