STATE COLLEGE - The Central Mountain football team ended the season the same way it came in.
All in, all out.
The Wildcats played their hearts out Friday night in valiant effort against heavy favorite State College before finally falling short in a 42-25 defeat.
Central Mountain’s Von Walker (21) tries to clear his way around the State College defense Friday at State College.
"I thought we made a lot of mistakes in the first quarter and we were looking to change some of those things in the second quarter," SC head coach Al Woski said. "In the third quarter we came out played really well. But the one thing about Central Mountain is that they never give up. They just keep on coming after you and after you. They have a great player in Von Walker and I'm pretty sure this is the last time we'll have to see him. He's great player and great competitor."
The first quarter was a story of giving and taking away. In the past few weeks the Von Walker- Cole Renninger tandem has been clicking like never before. In the first play of last week's game against Jersey Shore, Walker connected with Renninger on a 63-yard touchdown pass.
That play set the tone for what would become a rout of the Bulldogs. The Wildcats decided to put their trust in that duo in the first play of last night's game as well.
And it paid off.
Walker took the pitch back and completely caught the SC defense offguard.
He threw a great pass down the right sideline to Renninger, catching him right in stride. The senior wideout was a few steps behind the defense before it could adjust. Renninger had nothing but green in front of him and the end zone in his sights. Central
Mountain was going to go up a TD and this was the perfect start it was looking.
Then came the dreaded gasps from the CM fan section.
Why? The defensive back from State High, Dan Fry, made a tremendous play, poking the ball out from Renninger's grasp and what looked like a sure touchdown resulted in turnover. The ball sailed into the endzone for a touchback and the Little Lions took over.
"That was a big play and that would have given Central Mountain momentum right from the get go," Wolski said. "We had a similar play to that later on, and Dan caught the pass and didn't fumble so that was kind of nice. We made some mistakes in the first quarter, but our kids were able to atleast answer some of Central Mountain's plays."
Hope was far from lost for the Wildcats though.
On the very next possession following the turnover, CM caused one of its own. State College made it clear it was going to play aggressive. The Little Lions converted on a fake punt, trying to demoralize the Wildcats, but Kishbaugh's group wasn't deterred. Tyler Pavalko came up big a few plays after the fake punt conversion, getting the ball back for CM.
By the end of the first quarter it was still knotted at 0-0, but Central Mountain again got another turnover off a fumble recovered by Matt Bean.
Those two first quarter turnovers created by the 'Cats were huge because those takeaways killed promising drives.
"I knew that our kids could play with these guys," Kishbaugh said. "It got a little out of hand and it got away from us a for awhile, but the kids were able to bounce back."
In the second quarter both offenses started to settle in.
State College's Ryan Goeke got the first point of the ball game, scoring off a 24-yard run. But Central
Mountain followed the Little Lions' score with a loud and clear answer.
Using a combination of three backs, Central Mountain marched its way down the field all the way to the one-yard line. All that was left to do was punch the ball in and Blaze
Buckwalter did just that.
"That showed how we've grown throughout the season," Kishbaugh said. "If that happens in the second win of the season, it could have gotten a lot uglier, but
I'm proud of these kids because they continued to fight all night. That was one thing that we stressed to them that we had to play for 48 minutes and they did that."
A little over three minutes later, Andrew Kelly made his presence felt, running in a 14-yard touchdown. Now, with under two minutes remaining in the half, CM had two choices. It could either play it safe with a couple of runs a drain the clock, or try and even the score up. There's no right or wrong decision here, but if you're up against a heavy favorite, play to win.
And that's what the 'Cats did.
Risk and reward scenarios pop up in every game.
Central Mountain took its risk by not running out the clock to head into the half.
Unfortunately, there was no reward and State College forced another turnover on an interception. Already deep in CM territory, Pat Irwin threw an eight-yard strike to Darian Herncane, putting SC up two scores at the break.
The Wildcats were still very much in the game, State College was looking to own the third quarter.
Only 18 seconds in, Ebrahim Britton ran home 57-yard TD. The Little Lions scored two more times in the third. Goeke scored his second rushing touchdown and Irwin threw his second passing TD, finding Kelly for the 34-yard score.
All of a sudden it was 42-7.
It ain't over til it's over though, and Central Mountain fought hard until the very end. The 'Cats forced a turnover and even recovered an onsides kick.
Buckwalter found the end zone for the second time on the ground. Walker had rushing score as well and found Renninger in the endzone for 16-yard TD pass.
"In my opinion, I thought we played a great second half," Kishbaugh said. "We could have very easily came out here and let this team run all over us, but they didn't.
They continued to play a full 48 minutes and I'm proud of them. This season has been great and the kids have adjusted well to the system."