Bald Eagle Area coach Ron Hoover was left to lament a second straight loss marred by turnovers.
Two Eagles’ turnovers led to touchdowns in Central’s 27-point second quarter of a 40-0 rout Friday night. Bald Eagle Area finished with three turnovers in the setback one week after giving it away six times in a shutout loss to Chestnut Ridge.
“It just runs in spurts and we just haven’t eliminated it yet,” Hoover said.
The turnovers were only part of the problem for the Eagles (1-4). Bald Eagle Area managed just two first downs and 13 rushing yards in the first half.
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Take away three sacks of Bald Eagle Area quarterback Jason Jones, and the Eagles rushed for just 22 yards on nine carries. Jones threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, as Central built a 34-0 halftime lead.
Jones completed 8 of 16 passes for 65 yards. Bald Eagle Area finished with 41 yards rushing on 24 carries.
“We’re a team that has to maintain running the ball and play-action,” Hoover said. “We’re not a big play down the field team, and if we can keep it in the game, then we have a shot at winning.”
But Central (4-1) came into the game focused on taking away the running game.
After the Dragons struggled to slow the Penns Valley running game early last week, Central coach Dave Baker said he expected Bald Eagle Area to try to establish its rushing attack.
The Dragons defense swarmed to the ball from the start, quickly shutting off any open running lanes for the Eagles.
Bald Eagle Area’s longest rush of the first half came on its fifth drive. The run by Mitchell Struble in the second quarter went for six yards.
By that point, the Eagles trailed Central 21-0.
“That’s where the game turned,” Baker said of shutting down the running game. “They weren’t able to possess the ball and then had to probably try some things they didn’t really want to do.”
The Central offense, led by its interchangeable quarterbacks Mike Mock and Noah Benton, clicked to take the lead in the first quarter.
Mock set up the first touchdown with a 52-yard run, bursting up the middle and bouncing to the right sideline before he was wrestled to the ground by Scott Sayers.
Three plays later, on third-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Mock found Benton in the end zone.
Central led 7-0 with 4:23 left in the opening period.
“You can have them run the ball and you can have them play other positions,” Baker said. “And they can play defense and they can do a lot of different things that you might not want your quarterback to do if you only had one. And they both can do a lot of different things.”
Mock provided the highlights Friday night.
He intercepted a pass by Jones on the ensuing Bald Eagle Area possession. On the first play of the second quarter, he outraced Sayers to the right sideline and cruised into the end zone on a 33-yard run to give Central a 14-0 lead.
“He’s just an all-around outstanding football player and he’s starting to feel as though he can run the ball hard up inside and break stuff just by running hard,” Baker said.
After Central’s offense made plays to build the two-score lead, the Dragons added to it with the help of Eagles’ turnovers.
Just more than a minute after Mock’s touchdown run, Central’s Alex Hoenstine picked off a pass floated over the middle for tight end Jarrett Shreffler and returned it 13 yards for a score.
The Dragons led 21-0.
Central took a 27-0 lead after a 1-yard touchdown run by Hoenstine with 5:04 left in the first half. Nineteen seconds later, it was 34-0.
A botched pitch to Struble in the backfield was recovered by the Dragons at the 1-yard line. Damon Langer punched it in for the score.
“The last several weeks, we’ve made too many mistakes,” Hoover said. “We match up well. I really feel that way. But then penalties and then the turnovers and then it gets away from us.”
Hoover reminded his team the season is only halfway over after the game.
The Eagles are hoping to turn it around in their final five games.
“We have Tyrone, we have homecoming next weekend,” Hoover said. “It’s a great way to jumpstart the second half of the season. We’re not packing it in. I still believe that our kids can play with the good schools and win games.”