State College football coach Matt Lintal didn’t think twice.
Time after time, he went to Tyler Snyder.
Lintal knows what he has at quarterback. He trusts Snyder — and the senior signal-caller kept giving his coach reasons to believe in him.
In less-than-ideal circumstances, Snyder and his supporting cast stepped up along with the Little Lions defense, leading State College (7-0, 3-0 Mid Penn Commonwealth) to a 33-14 win over Central Dauphin East (4-3, 1-3) on Friday night at Landis Field.
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Snyder, who completed 8 of 16 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns, put together one of his best performances of the season.
“He knows what we want to do with the football,” Lintal said. “And our kids are ready to go make some big plays … He knows how to make some big things happen.”
Snyder got off to a fast start, directing State College’s second drive of the game deep into Panther territory.
Faced with a 4th-and-5 on Central Dauphin East’s 25-yard line, Lintal elected not to send out the field goal unit.
Instead, he took his shot.
Snyder dropped back, identified freshman wideout Cohen Russell breaking on an outside post to the pylon and hit his man for a 25-yard score.
The Panthers knotted things up at 7, though, late in the second quarter. An acrobatic scramble and throw by Central Dauphin East quarterback Kane Everson generated an 86-yard, Tyshaun Pollard reception, setting up a five-yard touchdown run by Everson.
But State College responded.
Backed up with a 2nd-and-34 on the Little Lions’ 14-yard line and less than two minutes to go, State College could’ve tried to kill some clock and live to fight another day.
However, Snyder had been so close to connecting with Noah Woods all evening. Snyder took several shots downfield to the speedster, coming up empty each and every time.
But when Lintal dialed up another deep heave in a precarious spot at best, Snyder delivered, hooking up with Woods for a 55-yard bomb to reignite the State College offense.
“I missed some deep balls last week to Noah, so we worked on that,” Snyder said. “Noah’s really getting separation this year, and it’s awesome.”
Next play, Snyder tossed a 22-yard jump ball to 6-foot-3 wideout Brandon Clark, who came down with the Little Lions’ second touchdown.
State College went into halftime up 13-7 with momentum, and came out of the locker room intending to hold onto it.
Slated to kick it away to open the third quarter, the Little Lions instead tried a surprise onside kick — and recovered.
First offensive play after the stunner? A fake double-reverse, 47-yard fly to Woods for another touchdown.
It was a devastating, crowd-silencing couple of plays.
“We came out, saw what they were giving us,” Woods said, “and we ran the best play we could’ve.”
Central Dauphin East didn’t back down, though. After their subsequent 11-play drive ended in a missed field goal, the Panthers forced a State College three-and-out and punched it home their next series.
A five-yard run by Mahki Moore brought the score back to 19-14.
State College wasn’t going to have an easy finish.
“Credit to them … They played tough, physical football,” Lintal said of Central Dauphin East. “Our kids don’t panic. They know when to take a deep breath and get ready to go.”
The Little Lions were able to grind it out.
After Pete Haffner converted a 4th-and-2 on Central Dauphin East’s 35-yard line with a few minutes left in regulation, Lintal rode Haffner the rest of the way. Four more rushes, and Haffner was in the end zone with 2:22 to go.
Like it did for the majority of the evening, State College’s defense stood tall late.
On the first play of Central Dauphin East’s final drive, Peyton Edwards sacked Everson.
The Little Lions added another a couple plays later, as a strip-sack allowed 265-pound defensive lineman Drew Linnes to scoop it up and barrel toward the pylon for a nine-yard touchdown.
The play perfectly capped a State College defensive performance in which the Little Lions recorded eight sacks and allowed only 4.2 yards per play.
All things considered — Snyder’s poise, Haffner’s bulldozing, and the defense’s stout play — Lintal thought it was a gutsy performance.
It could’ve been cleaner, but he’d take it, as the Little Lions now turn their attention to a home game against Harrisburg next week.
“I’m proud,” Lintal said. “I love these kids, just what they stand for. They stick together through thick and thin. Tonight was another one of those nights. Adversity brings you closer as a football team.”