Pete Haffner felt like he should have been an all-state selection last season.
The State College linebacker finished with 107 tackles and earned Mid Penn Conference Commonwealth Defensive MVP honors.
But he wasn’t recognized as one of the best players in the state.
On Tuesday, he was one of three State College players selected to the Pennsylvania Football Writers All-State Class 6A Team, achieving a goal he set back in August.
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“It was just something I could strive for throughout the year, something that could keep me going during the dog days of summer,” Haffner said. “It’s like this is the reason, this is why I’m playing. It’s for going undefeated, it’s for being all-state, it’s for the team, myself.”
Little Lions wide receiver Noah Woods and offensive lineman Will Swope also earned all-state honors, and Bald Eagle Area’s Rilee Bechdel was picked to the Class 4A team as a defensive lineman.
The State College trio helped the Little Lions to a 10-2 season, a share of the Mid Penn Commonwealth title and a PIAA playoff berth.
“I’m really proud of those three guys and our entire team, especially the senior class,” State College coach Matt Lintal said. “... They had tremendous years and really were a huge part of the success that we had.”
Woods emerged as a star wide receiver in his senior season, finishing with 37 catches for 1,003 yards receiving (27.1 yards per catch) and 12 touchdown catches.
“I kind of just stepped on the scene this year as being an actually playmaker,” Woods said.
After getting his first varsity experience as a junior, he was more prepared for this fall. He knew the plays and what to expect when he stepped on the field. He put in the time to get better during the offseason, developing a routine catching balls from former teammate Alec Aspray and lifting in the weight room to put on some muscle.
Woods had five 100-yard receiving games this season, including a 117-yard, three-touchdown performance in the team’s win over McDowell to clinch a spot in the state playoffs.
“Everybody knew Noah was a baller,” Haffner said. “He’s the fastest guy on the field.”
Haffner always wanted to outdo his older brother, Jack. During the season, they often got into the same argument.
“I always talk about how I’m a better football player,” Haffner said. “He talks about how he’s a better football player. So now we’re both all-state so we’re both pretty good at football.”
Jack Haffner received all-state honors in 2011 after rushing for more than 2,000 yards.
Pete Haffner was recognized as a linebacker after recording 86 tackles and five sacks and being named the Mid Penn’s Co-Defensive MVP.
He also rushed for 545 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Swope helped pave the way for some of the touchdown runs. The 6-foot-6, 275-pound offensive tackle anchored State College’s line, and said he learned from playing alongside Doug Swoboda and Mark Weakland last season. They pushed him to get better at practice and in the weight room.
He adopted that leadership role this year.
“I kept up that mentality, helped guys if they were having a bad day or something, helped them get through things,” Swope said. “If they were slacking a bit in the weight room, maybe helped push ‘em more to help them get better and get them ready for next year.”
Next year, Swope will be playing at Cornell. He finished his State College career as an all-state lineman.
“Thinking back in ninth grade, I never had the idea that this could happen,” Swope said. “I’m just so happy that something like this could happen.”
Meanwhile, Bechdel was a force in the Mountain League this fall. The defensive end finished with 89 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.
“I don’t think that he’s ever satisfied,” BEA coach Jesse Nagle said. “He’s pound for pound one of the strongest kids in the area and instead of being satisfied he continues to push himself.”
He left his coach in awe as he overpowered opposing linemen.
In a game against Jersey Shore, he showed off that strength to get the quarterback.
“He posted a tackle, forearmed a tackle in the chest, put him on the running back’s lap and then sacked the quarterback,” Nagle said. “He did a couple things that you just scratch your head and you’re like, ‘Wow, did he really just do that?’”
Bechdel is hoping to repeat as an all-state pick next season while pushing his teammates to get better.
“It takes hard work and dedication in football and this is just what the coaches wanted for us,” Bechdel said. “It’s an honor.”