State College coach Matt Lintal feels his team’s defense is one of the best in the state.
The unit has helped the Little Lions to a 7-0 record this season, dominating on Friday nights and pushing the offense to get better during practice. State College can practice at “game speed” while re-creating different scenarios ahead of games.
That’s why Lintal believes his team will be ready to face Harrisburg (5-2) and its disruptive defensive line in a Mid Penn Conference Commonwealth division matchup Friday night at Memorial Field.
“I think this is the best defensive line we’ve seen since Pittsburgh Central Catholic last year,” Lintal said.
State College managed just one yard offensively in the first half and fell 19-3 to Pittsburgh Central Catholic in the state quarterfinals last season. Harrisburg’s line anchors a defense that’s recorded two shutouts and allowed just 40 points in its past six games. Lintal said the Little Lions will remain aware of Penn State commit Damion Barber — a three-star defensive end, according to 247Sports — but the entire line is talented.
Lintal has been impressed by 6-foot-3, 280-pound defensive tackle Trevon Baltimore, 6-foot-1, 360-pound nose tackle Raymond Allen and Isaiah Hall, a linebacker who has also seen time at defensive end.
They combine to form a big, physical and explosive group.
And they could soon be joined by five-star defensive end and Penn State commit Micah Parsons. Parsons transferred from Central Dauphin to Harrisburg after being “accused by the school of ‘inciting a riot’ ” and being suspended last week, according to a report by PennLive.com.
Lintal said he doesn’t think Parsons will play Friday night. Harrisburg coach Calvin Everett could not be reached for comment.
Though the Little Lions prepared for the possibility, Lintal said he is more concerned with his team.
“We know and respect our opponent, but the focus is always going to be on us,” Lintal said. “And if we control and dominate what we can control, the outcome will take care of itself.”
Lintal thinks his offensive line will be ready for Harrisburg’s defensive front.
But he wants to find ways to take pressure off that group.
To do that, he wants to stay balanced offensively, forcing the Cougars to think about both the run and pass.
“I think any time you’re sitting back there and they can pin their ears back and just run at the quarterback, it’s going to be a long day,” Lintal said. “If you can get yourself into good down-and-distance scenarios where you’ve got a run and pass option, then you keep ’em guessing.”
He also knows the Harrisburg defensive line will cause problems at times.
“When you’re playing against phenomenal athletes, you’re going to win some, you’re going to lose some, so you got to make sure that you win more than you lose, and when you win ’em you take advantage of it,” Lintal said.
The Little Lions have gotten the ball in their playmakers’ hands throughout the season.
They’re taking the same approach into their latest challenge as they look to stay unbeaten.
“We’ve seen some very talented kids already this season,” Lintal said, “so this is probably just the culmination of a test of where we’re at, at this point in the year.”