It’s been seven years since Bellefonte knocked off Central, but this Red Raiders team will take a different attitude into this week’s matchup.
This year’s squad has already taken down traditional Mountain League powers Tyrone and Clearfield this season — the win against Clearfield was its first against the team since 2007 and the victory over Tyrone was its second since 1993 — so the Red Raiders won’t be intimidated when they face the Scarlet Dragons on the road Friday night.
“I don’t know that they’re in awe of it,” Bellefonte coach Shanon Manning said. “I think they’ve been in a lot of big games, particularly this senior group. They’ve played a lot of big games. I think they’re excited to play the game. I think they’re eager to play the game. I think they want to play the game. I’ve gone to Central before, and I wasn’t sure everybody on the bus wanted to go play that game.”
The Red Raiders (6-1) have proven themselves as one of the Mountain League’s best teams in 2017 with a resume that includes a loss to unbeaten Huntingdon (7-0) and decisive wins over Tyrone and Clearfield. They’ll have a chance to add another memorable victory against the Dragons (5-2), who are again one of the league’s elite teams.
Bellefonte last beat Central in 2010, overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit on its way to a 22-20 victory. The Red Raiders haven’t even challenged Central since that win, as they’ve been outscored 310-55 in six straight losses.
“It gives a little bit of drive,” Bellefonte senior offensive/defensive lineman Luke Lambert said before referencing the wins over Tyrone and Clearfield. “We want that same feeling.”
The Red Raiders played their best games this season to cruise past Tyrone 49-14 and rout Clearfield 55-28 in back-to-back weeks. But Bellefonte didn’t match those efforts for a third straight week against Penns Valley last Friday.
The Red Raiders trailed 6-0 at halftime against the Rams — who went into the game with a 2-4 record — and only led 21-20 in the final quarter before finally pulling away in a 35-20 win.
“We’d be better off if we would have played a good game last week,” senior running back/linebacker Stephen Kutches said. “We’d be coming into this week with a little more confidence. I think playing a bad game has slowed us down. We have to get over that and get ready for this week.”
The Bellefonte coaches and players have refocused after last week’s lackluster effort.
“It gets us in the right mindset that we know we could have done so much better, but we didn’t,” Lambert said. “We struggled, so we’re striving for our best this week.”
The Red Raiders know they’re in for a challenge against Central and its athletic playmakers. The Dragons rolled to four straight wins this season — outscoring their opponents by an average of 29 points — before falling 42-2 to Chestnut Ridge. Central then responded last week with a 55-0 win over Philipsburg-Osceola behind running back Trysten Detwiler’s 145 yards rushing and four total touchdowns.
Manning called Detwiler an “explosive” player, and the Central running back benefits from playing behind an imposing offensive line.
“They’re all bigger than our biggest guy,” Lambert said. “They’re fast, too.”
Kutches said the Red Raiders are prepared for Central’s attack after watching film and reviewing scouting reports. But the senior said they’ll only find out Friday night if they’re ready for the physicality of the matchup. Manning echoed that sentiment.
“They’ve been the watermark for a long time in this league,” Manning said. “They’re a big physical team. They’re just as good and as big and as physical as they are every year. It’s a carbon copy. Every year, you turn the film on, some of the numbers change, some of the numbers don’t change, and they still look the same. They do the same things.”