Bald Eagle Area went into halftime of Friday night’s 29-7 win against Central with a stagnant offense, and came out with a game plan change.
The Bald Eagles turned to usual starter Jaden Jones to enter the second half with the hope that he’d spark the offense, mixing in Kaden Bittinger, who started the game at quarterback but usually starts at wide receiver.
BEA head coach Jesse Nagle said he moved to the two-quarterback system because the team, and Jones, felt their starter was ready to come back from his injury.
“We had to make sure Jaden was okay,” Nagle told the Centre Daily Times. “He’s over there saying ‘Coach, I’m ready, coach, I’m ready.’ When we came out after halftime, we felt he was ready to be put back in.”
Nagle utilized both quarterbacks the rest of the way, and that formula sparked the offense.
Bittinger led the team in on the ground and in the air in the game. He had 99 passing yards on 8-of-15 passing with two interceptions.
On the ground, the senior finished with 99 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, including a fumble that he recovered after a dropped snap.
He said after the game that he never lost confidence in himself after the halftime change.
“No, not really,” he said when asked if the change rattled him. “I know I’m a versatile player and I can play pretty much anywhere. I wasn’t really shaken, I was just ready.”
BEA’s only first-half score came on a Kyler Cunningham fumble recovery in the end zone with 3:53 left to play in the half. The Eagles made the lead 8-0 when offensive lineman David Close punched in the two-point conversion.
Once switching into the two-QB system, the offense started to hum.
On the second drive of the half, Jones led the offense down to the 16-yard line, then gave away to Bittinger. The drive only took two plays to come to a conclusion from there.
Bittinger first ran for a 5-yard gain on a designed run, then ran for the final 11 on another designed run, opening the lead to 15 with 4:35 left in the third quarter.
It was all Eagles from there.
They score another rushing touchdown, this time on a one-yard run from offensive lineman Caleb Burns. The play was set up by a 39-yard pass from Jones to senior wide receiver Gage McClenahan that the latter hauled in with a leaping effort.
The Bald Eagles finished their scoring with a 6-yard touchdown run by Bittinger with 6:20 left in the game.
The Dragons were able to get on the board late when freshman Jeff Hoenstine found senior Braden Kitt for a 39-yard score to make it 29-7 with 2:06 left to play. The Bald Eagles recovered the following kickoff and ran the clock out from there.
In his return, Jones, who hadn’t played since he hurt his shoulder in week three against Penns Valley, completed 4-of-10 passes for 86 yards and ran for 15 yards on five carries.
Bittinger said he was thrilled to see Jones back out on the field.
“It was great to have our star quarterback back,” Bittinger said.
He also walked away from the game happy with what he’d accomplished when he was in at quarterback.
“It felt good to score two touchdowns,” he said. “It was rewarding. I got a lot of carries and tough yards. It felt good.”
The Bald Eagles will be back in action next week when they head on the road to play Tyrone Friday night at 7 p.m.
BALD EAGLE AREA 29, CENTRAL 7
(Friday at Wingate)
Central 0 0 0 7 – 7
Bald Eagle 0 8 14 7 – 29
BEA - Cunnningham 0 fumble recovery (Close run), 3:53
BEA - Bittinger 11 run (Stere kick), 4:35
BEA - Burns 1 run (Stere kick), 2:28
BEA - Bittinger 6 run (Stere kick), 6:20
C - Kitt 39 pass from Hoenstine (Austin Keithl kick), 2:06
Top Rusher: C: Ben Smith 5-16. BEA: Bittinger 23-99-2.
Top Passer: C: Hoenstine 7-12-1-1 74. BEA: Bittinger 8-15-0-2 99.
Top Receiver: C: Kitt 4-55-1. BEA: Gage McClenahan 5-60
Interceptions: C: Hoenstine, Ethan Eicher. BEA - Bittinger.
Next Game: Bald Eagle at Tyrone, Friday