Pine Richland Rolls Over State College, 56-33


Nathan Grella, Staff Writer

For the State College Little Lions, the season was not without the drama, that is for certain. From big plays against Central Dauphin East and Chambersburg, to sweating bullets against Cumberland Valley, the Little Lions have not won without a bit of drama and good luck, along with being more naturally talented. On Saturday night in the PIAA 6A quarterfinal against Pine Richland, the game would certainly have the drama but lack the good luck and the natural talent against the Rams.

State College finished off the season exactly one year ago in the same round in Hempfield by the same squad of Rams. In that season, 5-star Notre Dame quarterback, Phil Jurkovec led the Rams in the second half over a competent but young Little Lions squad en route to a state championship and left incoming seniors with a sore taste in their mouth looking for revenge.

Throughout the season both teams had dominated most opponents with a few slip-ups. For Pine Richland, it came in the final week in the season against North Allegheny, while for State College it came against Harrisburg.

The one difference between the two teams and the glaring deficiency throughout the matchup would become the defensive injuries for the Little Lions both throughout the season and during the game. Early in the year against St. Augustine, State College lost possibly their best defensive linemen, Cole Urbas and Titus Thompson. Along with Kevin Kurzinger’s injury near the end of the 4th quarter on Saturday night, the Little Lions defensive line was completely depleted while facing the best offensive line in the state.

That matchup was the difference in the game. “We definitely came out slow and cold, and we definitely dug ourselves a hole early in the game, ” quarterback Tommy Friberg said. A fumble and interception from Friberg on the opening two State College drives gave the Rams great field position, which led to two very quick touchdowns to put the Rams up by 14. For the Rams, Anthony Cerminara and Luke Meckler ran the ball efficiently and effectively throughout the night, barely allowing any 3rd downs and converting on two 4th and shorts.

The State High offense regained composure late in the 1st quarter with a 55-yard Dresyn Green touchdown to pull within 7, but the offense would struggle to move the ball consistently throughout. A bright spot for the State High offense would come in the form of Penn State commit Keaton Ellis. Ellis would have the ball thrown his way all but 5 times, but in those 5 targets came two 20+ yard passes, a pass interference penalty and two touchdowns, one of which was 80 yards.

During the 3rd quarter, State College looked to be fighting back. A roughing the kicker penalty hurt the Lions’ chances at scoring near the end of the half, but following an opening drive touchdown by Pine Richland, State College battled back. An interception by Ellis led to a diving catch into the endzone by Cohen Russell to pull within 15, but a long, suffocating drive by the Rams followed, capped with a pass to Luke Meckler for the TD to effectively seal the win, 56-33.

Synopsis: State College against the run was the only matchup that State College was really deficient in, but that matchup ended up being the dealbreaker. Pine Richland dominated the trenches and State College was utterly outmatched on every defensive play. Pine Richland only punted the ball once and only had one pick as well. State College competed well on the offensive side of the ball, and without the opening turnovers could have given the Rams a run for their money, but instead, the Lions headed home empty.

What’s Next: Pine Richland will have a championship rematch with St. Joseph’s, only this time in the semifinals.