Defensive end Jackson Heasley recalled watching film of State College’s loss to Cumberland Valley with a “bitter feeling” knowing his team didn’t play well that night.
The Little Lions defense didn’t have an answer for Cumberland Valley’s running game — allowing the Eagles to control the game with clock-killing drives — and State College defensive coordinator Mike Snyder challenged his unit the following week to play better.
“Overall as a defense, a couple weeks after that, we just started clicking,” Heasley said.
The Little Lions defense will look to put together another strong performance in the team’s matchup with Delaware Valley (12-0) in the first round of the PIAA Class 6A playoffs Friday night at Danville High School. State College (9-2) is coming off a 48-12 win over an Erie team that relied heavily on its rushing attack. The Little Lions will now face another team built around its running back and offensive line.
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“They’re a tough team. They run hard,” State College wide receiver/defensive back Cohen Russell said. “They’re 12-0, so they know how to win.”
Delaware Valley running back Ryan Obiso has rushed for 1,637 yards and 24 touchdowns to power his team’s perfect season. Obiso is averaging 7.8 yards per carry and 136.4 yards per game, thriving in Delaware Valley’s “in-your-face” approach on offense.
“He’s a hard-nosed, tough runner, downhill kid that’s going to get yards on each and every play,” State College coach Matt Lintal said. “Their offensive line is big, they’re physical, they play fast. And that’s really the pride of their team.”
Lintal said the Warriors utilize power and counter running plays in a system that may look familiar to Penn State fans. Warriors coach Keith Olsommer played tight end for the Nittany Lions in the 1990s, and Lintal said Delaware Valley’s offense is similar to the Nittany Lions system under former coordinator Fran Ganter.
It will provide the latest test for the State College defense this season.
The Little Lions’ first major challenge came against Cumberland Valley’s Wing-T offense in early October. State College allowed 231 yards rushing on 54 carries, as the Eagles picked up first down after first down on long drives. Cumberland Valley mixed in a few big plays in the passing game, but its physical running game set the tone in a 36-21 win over State College.
The Little Lions turned the setback into motivation for the rest of the season.
“The next week, we weren’t content with where we were, so we decided as a team that we were going to practice harder as a team, hold each other accountable and overall just play harder,” Heasley said.
The Little Lions defense came together and turned in back-to-back dominant performances on its way to the state playoffs. In the team’s regular season finale, State College contained Central Dauphin running back Mike Wise-Belle and the Rams offense. The Little Lions forced Central Dauphin to attempt field goals in the first and third quarters and didn’t allow a touchdown until the end of the third on their way to a convincing 31-10 win.
Last week, State College cruised past Erie and its running game to reach the PIAA playoffs.
“Our defense is playing great football right now,” Lintal said. “They’ve been really up for the challenge and have risen to the occasion, so we’re expecting the same thing this week and preparing the same way to make sure that we’re ready to go.”
Heasley and his teammates are confident heading into this matchup and ready to match Delaware Valley’s physicality at the line of scrimmage.
“I think we’re peaking at the right time as a team,” Heasley said. “We’re very close as a team. We’re brothers, and we just need to keep doing what we’re doing.”
PIAA Class 6A first round
State College vs. Delaware Valley
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Danville High School
Players to watch: State College QB Tommy Friberg — Friberg is coming off one of his best performances this season. The Little Lions quarterback completed 12 of 15 passes for 240 yards with three touchdowns in the win over Erie. He’s now thrown for 1,619 yards with 22 touchdowns and 8 interceptions this season. Delaware Valley RB Ryan Obiso — Obiso has been unstoppable some nights en route to more than 1,600 yards rushing this season. Last week, he finished with 108 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 19 carries against Hazleton Area. Two weeks ago, he rushed for 364 yards and five touchdowns on 36 carries in a 49-28 win over Scranton — besting his 251-yard, two-touchdown performance against Scranton earlier in the season and matching his five-touchdown effort against Williamsport.