On the sideline after each of his four interceptions in the first half, State College quarterback Tommy Friberg reviewed what he saw with his coaches.
But throughout the frustrating start against Delaware Valley in the first round of the PIAA Class 6A playoffs Friday night, the staff didn’t give him any pep talks to keep him focused. They didn’t need to. At halftime, they told him to continue to throw the ball with confidence, and that’s exactly what the Little Lions signal-caller did to lead his team to a 21-14 comeback win.
Friberg was perfect in the second half, completing 9 of 9 passes for 175 yards with three touchdowns to overcome a two-TD deficit and send State College to next week’s state quarterfinals, where it will face the winner of Saturday’s Central Catholic-Pine-Richland matchup at a site and time to be determined. It was an impressive finish for Friberg after he was intercepted three times near the end zone in the first half.
“That’s Tommy Friberg in a nutshell,” State College coach Matt Lintal said. “It doesn’t matter what’s happening, good or bad before that. He can stay focused on the task at hand and he can let it go. He’s never too high, never too low and stays focused on what’s in front of him.
“He’s a tremendous competitor. He’s an outstanding young man, and he led our team to a victory tonight. I’m very proud of him.”
Friberg finished the night 14 for 20 for 217 yards with three touchdowns to climb higher in the county’s record books. He now ranks seventh for single-season passing yards in a season with 1,836, and he sits second with 25 touchdowns behind State College’s Brook Hart (29 touchdowns; 2006). Friberg tried to stay positive and look forward to the next play after each mistake Friday night.
“I knew I couldn’t stay mad at myself because it was only 7-0,” Friberg said. “Our defense was playing really well, and it was still a game. I knew we would bounce back.”
Friberg finally got his team on the board with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Clark, pulling State College within 14-7 with 7:10 left in the third quarter. After State College’s Ian Barr recovered the ensuing onside kick — a chance the Little Lions took because they remained confident in their defense — Friberg fired his second touchdown pass to Clark.
The ball went through the hands of Little Lions wide receiver Cohen Russell and right at Clark. The State College wideout then burst down the sideline for a 48-yard score to tie the game. Clark finished with six catches for 116 yards — all in the second half — to help Friberg and the Little Lions take control.
He never lost confidence in his quarterback, either.
“I knew he could come through it through the second half,” Clark said. “He’s still the best QB I ever had.”
Friberg capped the comeback with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Russell with 5:27 left in the third quarter immediately after the State College defense recovered a fumble. Three straight completions resulted in touchdowns during the turnaround aided by the onside kick recovery and Delaware Valley turnover.
With his team’s season on the line, Friberg found his confidence and turned in a sharp performance to spark the Little Lions to victory.
“I was thinking about placing the ball too much instead of just slinging it and trusting my arm and trusting my wide receivers to make plays,” Friberg said.
State College’s defense shut down running back Ryan Obiso and Delaware Valley the rest of the way to seal the win. The Little Lions sprinted to the sideline in excitement after the final defensive stop, and Friberg was all smiles after the win knowing the Little Lions are moving on.
“It feels great going to practice on Thanksgiving,” Friberg said. “That was our main goal. We’re just excited for the upcoming week.”