State College cleared the first hurdle on its tough non-conference schedule last week by knocking off Spring-Ford 34-20.
Week 2 brings an even stiffer challenge — quite possibly the best Class AAA team in the state.
The Little Lions take on Bishop McDevitt at 7 p.m. Friday at Memorial Field and the Crusaders looked every bit the part of one of the state’s top teams in their season-opener. McDevitt, the Class AAA runner-up last season, mauled perennial Class A power Steel-High 56-0 in Week 1.
The Crusaders held Steel-High to just four yards of total offense, forced five turnovers and scored a pair of touchdowns in each quarter of the romp.
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While McDevitt looked invincible — albeit against a Class A team —State College coach Matt Lintal said his squad won’t shrink from Friday’s clash.
“Our kids are looking forward to Friday night and what that will mean to us,” said Lintal. “It’s obviously a big test and a big challenge. They’ve got talent running around out there everywhere. The kids are looking forward to it to see where we’re at, make the most of the opportunity and most importantly to improve from Week 1 to Week 2.”
The Little Lions took down Spring-Ford, a playoff team the previous season, by racking up 454 yards of total offense.
Lintal was impressed with the offense, led by quarterback John Weakland and running back Jordan Misher, from the start.
“I was super proud of our kids for that opening drive,” Lintal said. “We got the ball after an unfortunate kick return at the 5-yard line and we drove it all of the way down the field to set up a field goal (a 40-yarder by Kevin Cramer). It was like a 13- or 14-play drive. To sustain that long a drive without making a major mistake --- especially the first drive of the year --- it showed me a lot about our football team.”
Weakland had an excellent night, completing 16 of 27 for 141 yards and a score. His only interception came when one of his receivers ran the wrong route.
But,the night belonged to Misher, who amassed 226 yards on 26 carries. The 5-11, 190-pound junior scored on runs of 19, 19 and 32 yards.
“He’s a kid that comes every day to practice and works so hard,” Lintal said of Misher. “What’s crazy is he rushes for 226 yards on Friday and we’re out and running on Monday for practice and he’s leading all of the sprints. That’s just who he is. He doesn’t take anything for granted and he works as hard as he can every day in practice. That’s what makes him special.”
The Little Lions will face a pretty special back, one Penn State coach James Franklin will be doing big things in Centre County a year from now.
Andre Robinson, who orally committed to the Nittany Lions in February, is coming off a monster season in which he rushed for 2,338 yards and 29 touchdowns. Last week, he ran for 136 yards on 16 carries and two scores. He also added a touchdown reception to move past Philadelphia Eagle standout LeSean McCoy two second on the school list with 75 touchdowns. He needs nine more to tie all-time leader Jameel Poteat.
“This week a focus is on gang tackling,” Lintal said. “We’re trying to get 11 guys to the football to help bring that running back down. It’s tough to break 11 tackles on every play.”
The Crusaders aren’t all Robinson. Quarterback Nick Marsilio completed 16 of 22 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns against the Rollers.
“They’re a little bit more simplified offensively, but they don’t have to be fancy,” Lintal said. “They have great players. They do what they do and they do it very well. Their quarterback manages the game very effectively and they’ve got some throw it to and a great back to hand the ball off to.”
State College’s defense got dinged for a couple of big plays by Spring-Ford, but managed to hold the Rams to just seven second-half points.
“Yeah, we made some mistakes,” Lintal said. “They ran eight trick plays and they got us on a couple, but our kids learned from that experience. Even when they gave up a big play, they found a way to recover. Our kids just never quit.”
Weakland, Misher and Kellin Valentine (who rushed for 64 yards and had six catches for 54 yards) and the rest of the Little Lion offense will face that defense that not only blanked Steel-High, but scored a touchdown. The Crusaders recorded five sacks, two by end Derek Lutes, and recorded 10 additional plays of negative yardage.
“They have athletes everywhere,” Lintal said. Defensively, they play a lot of cover zero. They will be up in our face and bringing everybody that they can. They’re going to make you get rid of it quick and try to create havoc in the backfield.”
The game will be broadcast live and re-aired at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on WHVL (Comcast Channel 14).