PIAA 6A playoff preview: State College vs Delaware Valley
Written by: Billy Splain on Friday, November 17th, 2017
When State College and Delaware Valley meet on the field at Danville Ironmen Stadium, it will mark the first time the two programs have met for an official game. That doesn’t mean they aren’t familiar with each other. In 2015 they met for a preseason scrimmage. Tonight, those who were sophomores for that scrimmage are now seniors, and each team would like to make the first official game count as a win. And no bigger game to get that win than in the state playoffs for a chance to move on to the quarterfinal round.
For the 9-2 Little Lions, the road to get here contained a few potholes. Back on October 6 they saw their perfect season end as Cumberland Valley showed the Lions they had work to do. They couldn’t stop the CV run game and were dealt a 36-21 loss. I spoke with a couple players during that week after. “We just had to get focused and practice harder” said defensive end Jackson Heasley (Delaware commit). “I think as a defense we’ve responded well at practice, so far its been our best practice. We have an all business mentality. We’ve just been working on playing lower, disciplined ball and not getting up field to fast.” With one exception, a loss to national powerhouse Harrisburg that the Little Lions were in till the fourth quarter, the defense has improved, giving up only 14 points per game since that CV loss, including last weeks 48-12 win over run heavy Erie HS.
Tommy Friberg has earned his starting position. In eleven games he’s thrown for over 1,600 yards and 22 tds to 8 interceptions for a 121.4 rating. The junior signal caller has several weapons at his disposal, but the Warriors will first have to contain Friberg as he can and will take off with the ball and has done so to the tune of 346 yards on 65 carries and 2 more scores.
At the reciever positions, the Little Lions have many weapons, starting with Penn State recruit Brandon Clark. Clark possesses excellent athletic ability and a sticky pair of hands. He’s caught 38 passes for over 600 yards and 12 trips to the endzone. Slot receiver Cohen Russel has a motor with an extra gear out of the backfield. His quick burst of speed has led to 489 yards on just 29 catches. Junior Jeremy Bullock is an emerging star for the Lions and actually had a good game in the CV loss. The lone mystery here is if Head Coach Matt Lintal will have the services of another Penn State recruit, Keaton Ellis, who had surgery on his thumb early in the season. Ellis can fly and if he’s healthy the Warriors could be in for a long night.
Running the ball for the Little Lions is a group effort, starting with power back Tristen Lyons. Don’t be fooled by his size, he can move a pile when he needs to, and if the pile looks too big to attack, he’ll get the edge and he could be gone. Lyons has run for just 881 yards, but only on 110 carries for a respectable 8 yard average. He’s hit the end zone 14 times. Isaiah Edwards has breakaway speed and is a threat to score from anywhere on the field, but his most dangerous aspect is when he’s returning kicks. He’s averaging 32 yards a return. Those two plus Friberg have run for nearly 1,800 yards.
The offensive line is one of the best Matt Lintal has seen at State College, and it’s achored by 6-6, 280 lb Colin DeBoef. This is an explosive offense capable of putting a pile of points on the board in a hurry. They are averaging a whopping 47 points a game, and have scored 45 or more in 7 of their 11 games.
Defensively, the Little Lions have improved all year. Tyson Brennan, Heasley, Cole Urbas and Titus Thompson are a formibale front and have combined for nearly 300 tackles and 22 sacks, Heasley leading the way with 10.5 for loss and 12.5 sacks. Roaming the middle is Sr. Ian Barr who leads the linebacking corps with 64 tackles. Russel plays the db spot very well, and Paul Olivett is a shut down safety and has picked off opposing qbs 4 times.
For the 12-0 Warriors, they come into this game off a convincing 31-3 win over Hazleton. The Warriors are averaging 39 points per game and allowing just 11.9 a contest. As you can see, on the scoreboard and in the stats these teams are similar. But it ends there. Offensively for the Warriors they’ll rely on the power run game. Toting the ball from behind a large line anchored by 6-7, 270 Jacob Roccabruna is Ryan Obiso. The senior has rushed for 1,634 yards and 24 tds. Quarterback Nick Reilly has thrown for 1,500+ for 14 tds against 8 interceptions. As he goes, so go the Warriors.
But the Little Lions won’t be able to key on him. Reilly is a dangerous passer and has the weapons on the perimeter also. Dylan Kelly, CJ Anderson and James Secor have combined for almost 1,200 yards and 11 tds. Kelly has good acceleration and the ablity to get open in space.
Defensively, Freshman Linebacker Jason Henderson is tearing up opponents with 112 tackles. He’s joined by senior linebacker Anthony Scillia who has 110 tackles to his credit. Kelly at cornerback is great in coverage. With his speed he can keep up with receivers and has proven that registering 10 interceptions this year. Obiso coming off the defensive end is also something the Little Lions will have to watch out for. Safety Tyler Magee also has 4 interceptions making the Del Val defensive backfield a tricky spot for opposing quarterbacks.
These two teams are evenly matched and this should be an exciting game, with the winner moving on to play the winner of the WPIAL 6A title game between Pine-Richland and Central Catholic. The PIAA 6A playoff game is tonight at Danville HS at 7pm, and we got you covered! Follow @wpafootball on twitter for video updates throughout the game!
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