Matt Lintal got the bath every head coach doesn’t mind, even on a chilly night.
Lintal received an ice cold shower courtesy of a full State College water bucket following a 34-20 triumph over Spring-Ford in his first game at the helm of the Little Lions.
Jordan Misher rushed for 226 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries and John Weakland passed for 141 yards and a score as the Little Lions racked up 454 yards of total offense against the Rams.
“Obviously, there were a lot of pre-game jitters leading up to this,” said a wet Lintal. “Once the game started, I was really able to let those go. It was a groove and we got going. Our kids and our coaching staff do such an excellent job of just picking up where we are. Whatever happened the last play doesn’t matter and we’re going to make the most of what we got in front of us.”
“It feels great,” said Weakland of getting Lintal his first win. “He deserves it. He’s a great guy and a great coach. I’m so lucky to be a part of this.”
Misher started slowly, but came on strong as the game wore on. He scored on a pair of 19-yard bursts and rumbled 32 yards to cap the scoring.
“The offensive line did a great job,” Misher said. “They focused and we executed today and it all feel through.”
The Little Lions overcame an outstanding effort from Spring-Ford quarterback Brandon Leacraft who passed for 241 yards and two touchdowns. They took advantage of a Spring-Ford defense that featured 11 new starters.
The contest was entertaining throughout.
State College led 17-14 at the half, but Spring-Ford took the lead on Leacraft’s 80-yard strike to Brandon Barone on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter.
The Little Lions responded by marching 69 yards on their next possession. Misher covering the final 19 with a burst up the middle. Kevin Cramer’s extra point made it 24-20.
With State College leading 27-20 early in the fourth quarter, Spring-Ford had a chance to tie it. On fourth-and-goal from the 2, the Rams picked up a procedure penalty. With Leacraft on the sidelines and receiver Stone Scarcelle lined up at quarterback, State College stopped Ted Dylinski on a jet sweep for a four-yard loss to end the threat.
“Our defense stepped up huge,” Lintal said. “They were really bearing down with their backs against the wall. They did an excellent job. That really sealed the game off. That was a huge momentum booster.”
“It was a huge momentum shifter,” Misher added.
After a penalty to start the Little Lions’ next possession, Kellin Valentine raced 50 yards to the Spring-Ford 44. Misher took over from there. He had consecutive six-yard carries before rolling 32 yards to put the Little Lions ahead by two touchdowns with 6:52 left.
“We’re going to take what the defense gives us,” said Lintal, whose squad passed often in the first half. “They switched up a little later in the game. Truthfully, I think we were able to wear them down up front. ”Once we got to that point, we were ready to pound Jordan up in there.”
And Misher responded.
“He runs so hard,” Lintal said of the 190-pound junior. “He plays full speed, every snap in practice and in the game. ... To be a captain as a junior, that speaks volumes of what his teammates think of him as well.”
Weakland completed eight of his first nine passes and had few problems in his first start at quarterback. He finished 17 of 26 and hit six different receivers, including the shifty Valentine who had six catches for 54 yards.
“He is so calm, cool and collected,” Lintal said of Weakland, who led the Little Lions with 35 catches as a receiver last season. “I trust him so much out there. He does such a great job and I knew he would.”
“It felt great,” said Weakland. “The offensive line did a great job. Everyone did a great job. They made it easy for me.”
Weakland hit 5 of 6 passes in State College’s first drive which led to Cramer’s 40-yard field goal that barely cleared the crossbar.
Weakland connected on three more passes in the second quarter to set up Misher’s first score, a 19-yard burst up the middle.
Spring-Ford finally got its offense in gear. Leacraft led a 75-yard march, going 3 for 4 for 39 yards and rushing twice for 26. He capped it with a swing pass that Danny Matthews took 20 yards, diving into left side of the end zone for a score.
On State College’s next possession, Zach Hare picked off Weakland, as two receivers converged in the same area. Hare returned it to the Little Lion 6. Lined up in the Wildcat, Scarcelle ran twice, with a one-yard plunge giving the Rams a 14-10 lead with 3:31 left in the half.
The Little Lions responded with a seven-play, 84-yard drive. Misher started the march with a 20-yard run and Weakland capped it by hitting Drew Flanagan on a slant for a 12-yard score.
Thanking to a 40-yard strike from Leacraft to Barone, the Rams had a chance to tie it before the half, but Dalton Barger blocked Owen Gulati’s 27-yard field goal attempt.
The Little Lion defense was tough on the run, holding the Rams to 89 yards on 29 carries. Lonnie Koudela had a pair of sacks. Stan Martin forced a fumble that Barger recovered to set up Cramer‘s 27-yard field goal in the third quarter. Nathan King and Barrett McMurtry also delivered some big hits.
“I think our kids got a real good feel of where they were offensively and where they were trying to take advantage of us,” Lintal said. “They resorted to a lot of trick plays and our guys were prepared for that.”
In addition to Misher, Valentine had a big night with six catches for 54 yards and three rushes for 64.
The Little Lions next play host to PIAA Class AAA runner-up Bishop McDevitt on Sept. 4.