Bald Eagle Area’s Rilee Bechdel was named to the 2017 Pennsylvania Football Writers All-State Team as a defensive lineman Tuesday.
Bechdel — who was also an all-state selection last year — watched his numbers drop this senior season due to more opponents countering him with double-teams. But, in 10 games, he still finished with an impressive 42 solo tackles, six sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
He was one of five defensive linemen across the state in Class 3A to earn the honor.
“He’s a force,” Eagles coach Jesse Nagle said. “He got double-teamed constantly and teams ran away from him. That allowed the other kids to have nice seasons, statistical-wise.
“He’s great against the run because you couldn’t hardly move him and then he was pretty explosive off the edge.”
Bechdel missed parts of two games due to injury, and he came back against Clearfield. Nagle laughed recalling how, on one of his first plays back, he sacked the quarterback for a 14-yard loss. Clearfield tweaked its game-plan after that play.
“I’m friends with some of the Clearfield coaches,” Nagle said, “and one of them just said to me, ‘Why did he have to come back to our game?’ They didn’t double-team him that play. But they shifted after that.”
Bechdel was one of seven players in the county to earn all-state honors. On Monday, two Bellefonte players (Dylan Deitrich, Caleb Rockey) and four State College athletes (Jackson Heasley, Brandon Clark, Cohen Russell, Robert Nachtman) were named to their respective all-state teams.
On Tuesday, the teams for Class 1A, Class 3A and Class 5A were released. Bechdel was the lone county competitor to make those teams.
Nagle was pleased with Bechdel’s selection. But he was a little disappointed one of his other players, linebacker Kael Gardner, didn’t receive consideration. Gardner had 142 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and four sacks.
“He has unbelievable commitment to getting better,” Nagle said. “He watches countless hours of film all the time, he’s always on film and HUDL and stuff. He’s a student of the game, and he has natural instincts. There’s been numerous college coaches coming through and I show them the film and they say, ‘Did you blitz him there?’ And I don’t. He just reacts that quick.”
Nearly 500 players were nominated for the all-state teams. Reporters across the state then voted to narrow the teams down. PennLive organized the endeavor.
“It’s awesome,” Nagle added. “This is great for our program. And I think it shows where we’re going.”