Brady Dorner stood in the stands last week at Beaver Stadium, rooting on the Nittany Lions as they defeated Michigan in an electric White Out environment. While he stood there, cheering along with the crowd, his mind was elsewhere — imagining what it would be like to play on that field himself just one week later.
“It was pretty awesome (being at the White Out),” Dorner said Saturday. “Watching that last week, I knew what was coming this week.”
Dorner was looking ahead to his team’s season finale, and Senior Day, at Beaver Stadium. The State College quarterback and the rest of his teammates got the opportunity to play at the home of the Nittany Lions on Saturday afternoon, as they downed the Cumberland Valley Eagles 33-21.
The senior quarterback’s excitement began to build a full week in advance. After it was over, Dorner said it met his expectations.
“We had a ton of fans here and when we made plays, they went crazy,” he said. “It was awesome. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Dorner and the rest of the senior class had to play all their home games in their final season at the South Track Field. The team’s usual home, Memorial Field, is undergoing renovations that cost $14,322,485, according to the school district’s website, and won’t be completed until fall 2020.
While the seniors understood that their sacrifice would help better the future of the program, that didn’t make being without Memorial Field any easier.
“It’s hard because Memorial Field is our home,” senior wide receiver Lokey Howell said. “It’s sad that we couldn’t be there.”
Howell said his Senior Day game lived up to his expectations, and it was ultimately worth the sacrifice of not playing at Memorial Field — even though, he reiterated, Memorial will always be his home.
“I’m glad they let us have this experience,” Howell said. “A lot of people don’t get this chance. We’re one of the first to get to do this and it feels really good. I’m thankful for it. Playing at Beaver Stadium is a memory I’ll never forget, and I’ll never forget Memorial Field either. It made up for (not playing at Memorial Field), big time.”
Added Dorner: “I think it does (make up for not playing our senior year at Memorial Field). This is a great moment for all of us. We got a win, too, so I think it paid off.”
While he had high expectations for the game, senior defensive end Kevin Kurzinger said the experience surpassed them.
“This passed our expectations,” Kurzinger said. “We played an amazing game against an amazing team. The fans were amazing.”
The players weren’t the only ones with high expectations for the inaugural Beaver Stadium Classic.
State College head coach Matt Lintal had high hopes going in, and it turned out to be better than he imagined.
“It was unreal,” Lintal said. “The whole experience was unreal. We talked at halftime about what a story it was going to be and what a story it is for these guys, these seniors especially. We’re unbelievably proud of our guys’ effort and attitude. They represented the school unbelievably well.”
Part of what made the experience so special for Lintal was the crowd that took in the Beaver Stadium Classic. The announced attendance for the game was 5,681, and the State High head coach said his team fed off their cheers.
The Little Lions started off the game in a 14-0 hole, but after a 62-yard touchdown pass from Dorner to fellow senior Isaiah Edwards in the second quarter got them on the board, the crowd rose to their feet and State College never looked back.
“The crowd was unbelievable,” Lintal said. “They were impactful in the game and they were energetic. I didn’t know what it was going to feel like out here. It was awesome. You could feel the energy and the buzz. For the kids to have that experience, this is is unbelievable. It’s unmatched.”