High School Sports

Bald Eagle Area football fends off upset-minded Central to advance to District 6 final

The Bald Eagle Area Bald Eagles turned to a multiple-quarterback system to take down the Central Dragons for the second time in the 2019 PIAA high school football season. The teams met again in the District 6 Class 3A semifinals Friday night, and the Eagles went right back to the well offensively, beating the Dragons 21-19.

The Eagles utilized senior quarterback Jaden Jones primarily in passing situations in the game, and went to usual-wide receivers Kaden Bittinger and Gage McClenahan when they wanted to grind the clock down.

Jones began the game at quarterback, but Bittinger took the reins of the offense beginning near the end of the first quarter on the Eagle’s first scoring drive of the game. Jones continued to trade stretches with Bittinger until it was time to run the clock down in the fourth quarter. From there, it was all McClenahan, as he and the Eagles wore out the clock and secured the win.

Bald Eagle head coach Jesse Nagle said he made the decision to go to multiple quarterbacks because of Central’s defense and because Bittinger got hurt in the middle of the game, which forced McClenahan to take on the role of second quarterback.

“They did a nice job of taking us out of our gameplan offensively,” he said. “Plus we got backed up behind the chains over and over and over in the first half.”

McClenahan said it meant a lot to him to get the opportunity to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I love having the weight and pressure of the team on my shoulders.”

The Eagles may have gotten the win, but it was a battle to get there. The Dragons got on the board first with an 8-yard pass from freshman Jeff Hoenstine to junior Hunter Klotz after Jones lost the ball and gave Central possession. The Dragons led 6-0 with 2:43 left in the first quarter after missing the extra point.

Bald Eagle responded quickly with a scoring drive of its own that was capped off with a 2-yard touchdown run from senior Kaden Bittinger. Bittinger, who usually plays wide receiver, came in to play quarterback once the Eagles got close to the goal line and took the direct snap in for the score.

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Bald Eagle Area’s Jaden Jones makes a pass during the District 6 playoff game against Central on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com

Bittinger stayed involved in the offense, even when he was back at wide receiver. The senior took a reverse to his right and hit senior wide receiver Matthew Reese along the sideline. Reese took care of the rest, making a defender miss and trotting into the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown reception and a 14-6 Bald Eagle lead.

Central answered with another scoring drive to cut into the Eagles’ lead. The Dragons finished the drive with a jump pass from senior quarterback Braden Kitt to senior tight end Ben McConahy for a 5-yard touchdown. McConahy caught the ball a crowd of Bald Eagle defenders. The Dragons tried to tie the game with a 2-point conversion, but Hoenstine’s pass fell incomplete to keep the game 14-12.

The Eagles tried to get the ball downfield with less than a minute in the half to extend their lead, but Jones threw an interception to sophomore linebacker Ethan Eicher.

The Dragons were unable to take advantage after senior Austin Keith missed a 33-yard field goal attempt.

The Eagles came up empty in their first possession of the second half, but caught a break when Hoenstine muffed a punt and senior Gage McClenahan recovered it at the Central 25-yard line. The Eagles finished the drive just under three minutes later when McClenahan took the snap and ran it in for a score from a yard out. Bald Eagle’s lead was extended to 21-12 after the extra point.

Neither team scored again until the Dragons struck with less than nine minutes left in the game. Kitt found Hoenstine on the outside, and the freshman made two Eagles miss before coasting into the end zone.

That was as close as the Dragons would get thanks to a big defensive stand late in the game by Bald Eagle that was capped by a pass breakup by senior cornerback Ben Yetsko on Central’s final offensive snap of the game.

With the win, the Eagles will take on Westmont Hilltop in the District 6 Class 3A finals.

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Bald Eagle Area’s Hayden Vaughn runs down the field with the ball from Central defenders during the District 6 playoff game on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com

BALD EAGLE 21, CENTRAL 19

(Friday at Wingate)

Bald Eagle 0 14 7 0 – 21

Central 6 6 0 7 – 19

First Quarter

C — Klotz 20 pass from Hoenstine (PAT missed), 2:43

Second Quarter

BEA — Bittinger 2 run (Carter Stere kick), 11:57

BEA — Reese 54 pass from Bittinger (Stere kick), 10:02

C — McConahy 5 pass from Kitt (2-pt. failed), 3:33

Third Quarter

BEA — McClenahan 1 run (Stere kick), 6:57

Fourth Quarter

C — Hoenstine 15 pass from Kitt (Keith kick), 8:53

Top Rusher: BEA: McClenahan 7-31-1. C: Parker Gregg 9-43.

Top Passer: BEA: Jones 5-16-0-1 86. C: Kitt 13-26-2-1 99.

Top Receiver: BEA: Reese 2-89-1. C: Josh Biesinger 4-38

Interceptions: BEA: Zeb Fry. C: Eicher.

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