Two seasons ago, the State College football team got its first look at DuBois quarterback Gabe French and the Little Lions bottled up the sophomore that night in a 35-13 playoff win.
Fast forward to the present and State College once again faces French and his teammates at 7 p.m., Friday at Hollidaysburg High School in the District 6-9 title game. The Beavers’ senior brings in numbers that are unfathomable for most quarterbacks.
French has completed 189 of 260 passes (73 percent) for 3,362 yards. He’s thrown a whopping 40 touchdown passes with eight interceptions, He’s also rushed for 580 yards and eight scores in an offense that is averaging 49.5 points per game.
The Beavers (8-2) have scored 50 or more seven times this season and have topped 70 twice.
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“They know how to throw the football,” State College coach Matt Lintal said of the Beavers. “Gabe French is a fantastic quarterback who has played a lot of games. ... He’s really made some improvements to his game. He’s a very smart player and he knows where to put the football. He has kids that he’s throwing to who know how to catch the ball and make big plays.
“He’s doing some pretty unbelievable things statistically,” Lintal added. “They’re impressive.”
But they’re not so mid-boggling to make the Little Lions believe they don’t have a shot at knocking off the Beavers to advance against the District 8-10 winner next week.
While the Little Lions (4-6) don’t have a gaudy record heading into the game, they’ve hung right in with some if the Mid Penn’s toughest competition. Three of the season’s losses have been by a touchdown or less.
“We’re that close to being a really good football team,” Lintal said. “I’m hoping that through the experience of having those ups and downs that we are a good football team right now and that we can learn from all of those two- and three-point losses and find ways to win throughout the playoff season.”
In their last outing on Halloween night, the Little Lions snapped a four-game skid by thumping Mifflin County 47-12.
While the Huskies entered them game 1-8 on the season, Lintal said the triumph was what his team needed
“That was a huge game for us,” hed aid. “Just to get our kids some confidence in themselves and to feel what a win feels like. It really erased those four weeks and got us back on track to knowing we can make big plays, finish runs, finish tackles and play good defense.”
Tailback Jordan Misher, a first team All-Mid Penn Colonial selection, returned after a two-week absence and racked up 180 yards on 12 carries and even threw a TD pass.
“We got him back healthy and he was a difference-maker on that night,” Lintal said of the junior, who has rushed for 1,086 yards and 11 scores. “It’s definitely nice having him back into the fold.”
State College will rely on another difference-maker in the secondary — safety Jon Seighman, a second team Mid Penn selection. Seighman is second on the squad with 70 tackles.
“I’m really proud of his play this year,” Lintal said. “He’s stepped up as a leader of our defense along with (linebacker) Stan Martin. I’ll tell Jon Seighman has just played physical football. He runs to the ball and he’s into the mix on every tackle. I’m really impressed with what he’s done and really excited that we have him back for another year.”
Lintal said a pass rush will be the key to stopping French and his favorite targets Dante Dawson (46 catches, 12 TDs), Cole Kriner (43 catches, 11 TDs) and Kevin Foley (32 catches, 7 TDs).
“I think you have to try to disrupt him a little bit,” Lintal said. “If you let him sit back there all day, he’s going to find some open receivers. He’s got some good athletes to throw to, so you have to find ways to get pressure on him.
“In a perfect scenario, you don’t sacrifice zones to do that. If you can get pressure with the front four, then I think we’ll have a good opportunity to win the football game. If we have to bring a lot of guys, then obviously you’re risking zones or playing man defense,. That puts you more at risk for getting hit with a big play.”
Lintal says State College also must limit turnovers and limit the opportunities for the Beavers.
“We definitely have to control the football and we have to be productive with it,” he said. “We’ve got to not just move the ball — we’ve got to put it in the end zone and find ways to get points on the board. We’ve had a balanced attack all year and that’s when we’ve been the most effective.”
“DuBois has won a lot of games in shootout fashion,” Lintal added. “We don’t want to be in a shootout. They have proven they can put up a lot of points against people. If we get into a shootout, it could be tough to maintain with them.”