Brian McGonigal walked off Memorial Field Friday night with hope for the future.
McGonigal and the Philipsburg-Osceola football team lost to Bald Eagle Area 32-7, but the coach, in his second year at the helm, said he doesn’t believe Friday’s result is a sign of things to come. He believes his program will continue to improve, instead of falling apart.
“They played really hard,” he told the Centre Daily Times. “They played their hearts out. That’s a really good team that has two or three guys they can sub in, where we’re limited to about 15 guys we can put out there, depth-wise.”
The Mounties finished last season 1-9, and returned a very young team — including a new quarterback in junior Ryan Whitehead. However, they started this season out on the right foot, with a 41-16 walloping of cross-town rival West Branch.
While they weren’t able to continue their winning ways this past weekend, McGonigal said his team can build on this performance and improve if they clean up the self-inflicted wounds they had in Friday’s game.
“I told them they played with the No. 3 team in the state and they played well with them,” he said. “We shot ourselves in the foot with an interception return for a touchdown. You take that off the board, they’re back to 25 points. Then we gave up three scores on fourth down.”
Whitehead struggled in the game for the Mounties, completing 5-of-15 passes for 26 yards a touchdown, and three interceptions. Ready to move on from the performance, Whitehead echoed what his coach said about learning from the loss.
“I’ve definitely got to work on a couple of things at the quarterback position,” he said. “I’ve got to work on my reads and get better.”
The junior quarterback knows he’s in a position to set the tone for the team — which lost 16 seniors to graduation — because of his status as signal caller. He said he’s ready to take ownership of that role.
“I’m just trying to keep the team together,” he said. “I know we have a good group of guys right now, so hopefully some of our other captains will help me out and keep us all together here.”
Whitehead helped get the Mounties on the board late in the game when he connected with his brother Jeremy, a sophomore, for a 7-yard touchdown.
While the Mounties only scored one touchdown, McGonigal said he believes Whitehead’s pass will boost his confidence going into the rest of the season, and help propel the offense.
“He hung in there and I was glad to see that,” McGonigal said. “He stayed in the pocket on that score. I think it was a confidence booster, to know that he was able to complete a pass to his brother against their defense.”
Added Whitehead: “It proves that we can move the ball on them. I mean, obviously, we didn’t move the ball very well tonight, but that proved that we could do it.”
McGonigal isn’t alone in seeing the potential in his young team. Across the field, Bald Eagle Area head coach Jesse Nagle also said he believes P-O is on an upward trajectory.
“I think P-O is going in the right direction,” he said. “They definitely are.”
The Mounties will have a chance to bounce back this week when they take on Bellefonte at home Friday night at 7 p.m.