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State College Waltzes past Delaware Valley for a Statement Win, 56-19

By: Nick Haushalter

It was another chilly playoff game for the State College Little Lions, this time in Danville. Delayed twice from the originally planned Friday start, snow piled four feet high along the edge of the field was the only remainder of the terrible weather that caused so many setbacks. State College was not fazed by the strange Sunday playoff game. The Little Lions continued to roll after a convincing win against McDowell, beating the Delaware Valley Warriors by a wide margin in their 56-19 victory.

In the surreal setting State College dominated in all aspects of the game, but interestingly, the skill gap in special teams was possibly one of the biggest reasons for the score of the contest. The Warriors downright struggled in this department. Neither of their first two punts were more than 20 yards, giving up the ball in their own territory to a skilled Little Lions offense. The first turnover was given back by State College with an untimely fumble, but the other resulted in a 30 yard touchdown pass from Friberg to Russell on the very next play. That play gave the Lions a 28-0 lead with 10:35 left in the half and was in some ways a turning point. As far as the kickoffs, Keaton Ellis and Dre Green each had returns for touchdowns, where the Delaware Valley coverage looked helplessly slow and outmatched. Further, the Warrior’s return man slipped on his chance to take the kick at the beginning of the second half. After falling at the one yard line their offense fumbled the ball into their own end zone, where linebacker Tyson Brennan jumped on the pigskin for a Lions touchdown to make the score.

Speaking of the defense, the fumble was not the only score the State College D had during the standout performance. Kevin Kurzinger made perhaps the most impressive play of an afternoon chock full of highlights; a fabulous one handed interception returned back for six points, giving the Lions a 14-0 lead with 5:27 left in the first quarter. Jimmy Manyak came up with a huge block, driving a would be tackler far enough out of the way that Kurzinger had little trouble finding the endzone. As for the unit as a whole, the first half saw an especially strong performance by the Lions on defensive plays that were not as flashy but still set the tone fast.

It was not until there was 3:40 left in the first half when the Warriors scored; which happened to be on the same drive that saw their first conversion of downs after multiple three and outs.

The Lions have generally been exceptional on offense this season. Sunday afternoon was no exception. State College was generally efficient through much of the game and made the plays when they mattered most. The outside and inside running games were balanced and effective. Friberg didn’t take many chances on deep balls thrown down field, but was very accurate and able to cleanly and easily make the throws to open receivers. Cohen Russell was his favorite in this regard, hauling in a 30 yard touchdown pass in the 2nd quarter and a 60 yard touchdown pass in the 3rd quarter to make the score 49-13 Lions in the middle of the 3rd quarter. Jeremy Bullock showed his athleticism in the latter with a pancaking block to open the path for Russell.

As for Delaware Valley’s offense, they were able to get momentum at times and build longer drives, but for the most part seemed unprepared mentally and physically for this game. The Warrior’s gameplan was built mostly around power rushing, utilizing formations with fullback blocking and runs up the middle. The passing game was intended to be controlled and somewhat limited, to be used only when really needed or to throw off the opponent. A formula like that is not intended to come from behind and make the big plays on offense that are needed for comebacks against a team like State College. DV was unable to control the clock with long and methodical drives, especially early in the game, which made it extremely difficult for them to be comfortable on a play-to-play basis. The Warriors opened up the game somewhat on their first successful drive by stringing together a couple of first downs running the ball. This combined with quarterback roll-outs late in the first half gave the Warriors a first touchdown, but such a strategy was not enough for State College’s defense. Their attempts at more of a downfield passing game were almost entirely unsuccessful against a stellar State College secondary featuring Penn State targets Keaton Ellis and Sammy Knipe.

Synopsis: The Little Lions walk away from their third playoff game with a very comfortable win.

State College will face Pine Richland next week, continuing the pattern of playing the same teams from last year’s run. Both teams are coming off of extremely successful wins in an exciting clash of momentum. If State College can continue to be able to make the big plays that defined the game against Delaware Valley they should have a better chance of winning. The Rams will be favored going into the matchup by mostly everybody, but the Lions will be looking to match the incoming Rams’ excitement look to be ready to meet the challenge.

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