CARLISLE — Don’t let the final score fool you.
The 53-12 victory by State College (4-0, 1-0 Commonwealth) over Carlisle on Friday night at Ken Millen Stadium might look similar to past results between these two squads. But this was a much tougher game than the outcome indicates.
The Little Lions needed a dominating second half as they reeled off 40 unanswered points to fight off a spirited effort by the Thundering Herd.
Down 13-12 in the second quarter, Carlisle (1-3, 0-1) drove the length of the field. Faced with a third-and-1 from the three-yard line and an opportunity take the lead, the State College front four stuffed running back Braydon Keller twice to turn the ball over on downs.
It was the momentum shift the Little Lions needed.
Moments later, State College senior William Howell ran a jet sweep, breaking through the line and outrunning the secondary for the 87-yard score. The subsequent extra point gave the Little Lions a 20-12 halftime lead.
“Credit to Carlisle, they came out ready to play and had a great game plan,” State College head coach Matt Lintal said. “They really took it to us there the first half. We were fortunate enough to put the ball in the end zone and not give them a short field and make them earn everything.”
In the first half, Carlisle’s offensive line and running back tandem of Keller and Tristyn Sulich controlled the time of possession as both ball carriers ran 11 times for 59 and 33 yards, respectively. But the second half was a much different story for Carlisle.
“During this past week, the coaching staff was preaching to us that we had to come out strong the first-half,” Sulich said. “Usually we’ve been coming off weak and saving it up for the second half.
“We had a good scheme going the first-half. They wore us down and we just didn’t have enough energy to finish it out.”
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The running lanes weren’t as wide and the Little Lions’ defense put the Herd in long third-down situations. Carlisle was then forced to play catch-up as State College’s quarterback Brady Dorner orchestrated drives in the third quarter, calling his own number twice for rushing touchdowns.
“A lot of credit to our defensive coaching staff for coming out and making some adjustments,” Lintal said. “Our kids played a lot crisper football. I think we had a little more depth than they did and that started to show up. They got tired and we took advantage of that.”
Keller scored both Carlisle touchdowns while Herd quarterback Owen Hacker completed 10-of-18 for 109 yards. Freshman wideout Ezeekai Thomas had five receptions for 51 yards in the losing effort.
Dorner went 7-of-12 for 138 yards with one passing touching while rushing for 80 yards and three scores from the ground to pace the Little Lions offensive attack.
State College puts the Commonwealth Division’s only unbeaten record to the test next week as it plays the second of three straight road games traveling to Chambersburg. Carlisle visits Central Dauphin next Friday looking to return to the win column.
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