TYRONE — A gritty defensive effort was not enough to offset the mistakes of its offense and the power of James Oliver cost Bald Eagle Area a 14-0 loss to Tyrone at Gray Veterans Memorial Field Friday night.
BEA was able to keep Oliver from breaking any long scoring runs and forced him to work for his 152 yards on 32 carries.
But the Eagles’ offense was hampered by five penalties, two of them for holding, a couple of dropped passes and the inability to finish a couple of promising drives. Three times BEA drove into Tyrone territory, once marching from its own 2 to the Tyrone 41 where it stalled out. It also had a 47-yard touchdown pass from Jason Jones to Bryan Greene wiped out by a holding penalty.
“A couple of dropped passes, a couple of penalties,” BEA coach Jack Tobias said, “that’s what cost us. Football is a game of inches. The little things keep holding us back.
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“I thought our defense played outstanding. We played a lot of kids and we had some young kids, guys who haven’t played a lot, step up tonight. We built some depth.”
What they couldn’t do was build a barrier strong enough to stop Oliver, the latest in a long procession of exceptional Tyrone tailbacks. He scored once, on a 14-yard run after a 32-yard pass from Eric Wagner to Silas Crawford in the closing seconds of the third quarter. But he kept Tyrone on the field for big chunks of time.
“He has phenomenal leg drive,” Tobias said of Oliver. “He has great vision and he bounces things outside. He’s just a tough kid. Early in the game, we were tackling him high (he had 107 yards at the half) but in the second half we stayed lower, got on his legs more. A guy with that kind of power you have to tackle him low and get multiple guys on the ball.”
Tyrone’s first touchdown came at the end of an 80-yard drive on which Oliver carried the ball eight times for 64 yards. But from the BEA 4 Wagner rolled right, escaped heavy pressure and found Jake Makdad alone in the left corner of the end zone. Seth Umholtz made it 7-0 with 10:11 left in the half.
Tyrone recovered the on-side kick at the 50 and drove to the BEA 9 but on second down Wagner was intercepted by Bryan Greene in the end zone to kill the drive.
The third quarter was a punt fest until Tyrone faked one at the BEA 47 to keep a drive moving. Two plays later, Wagner and Crawford hooked up for the 32-yarder and Oliver scored the clincher as the clock wound down in the quarter. Umholtz kicked the final point of the game.
“We knew it was coming, we were yelling ‘fake punt’ and we made the tackle but it was just a yard short,” Tobias said. “We came within a yard of changing things.”
But the BEA offense wasn’t able to get a yard or two when it needed it, due in no small part to the Tyrone defense, which yielded only 59 yards rushing.
“I thought our defense played spectacular,” Tyrone coach Steve Guthoff said. “Our guys understand that at Tyrone defense comes first. The offense may struggle at times but if you play defense, get to the football, pursue, you’ll be all right.”
And with a back like Oliver eventually the offense will generate enough points to win.
“The last few weeks he’s carried maybe 12 or 14 times in a game. We tried to rest him because we knew there were going to be games like this where he would get his carries,” added Guthoff.
That’s when Oliver’s greatest attributes come into play.
“His speed, strength and drive are what make him what he is,” Guthoff said. “Physically, he’s probably superior to anyone on the field. He’s the strongest kid on our team. With his bench, squat and dead lift he’s over 1200 pounds. He wants the ball and he’s a competitor.”
For BEA it was the third loss in a row, as the Eagles get ready for Homecoming against Huntingdon when the undefeated 1963 team will be honored.