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2020 Preview: State College Little Lions

By Andy Sandrik: 

Coach: Matt Lintal

Classification: 6A

League/division: Mid-Penn Commonwealth

2019 record: 11-2, 6-1 in Commonwealth

Postseason: Lost to Central Catholic 24-21, in the PIAA quarterfinal

RETURNING LEADERS:

Passing: Comp-Att., Yards, TD

Conrad Moore: 8-20, 150, 1

Rushing: Att.,- Yards, Avg., TD

Dresyn Green: 196-1,204, 6.1, 19

Receiving: Rec.,-Yards, Avg., TD

Conrad Moore: 9-157, 17.4, 1

Key Players: Dresyn Green, Sr., RB-DB; Sammy Knipe, Sr., DB-HB-WR; Carson Franks, Sr., DB-WR; Conrad Moore, Sr., QB-DB; Stevie Guthoff, Sr., DE; RB Nehemiah Howell, Sr., RB; Ryan Domico, Jr., LB-RB; Jashaun Green, Jr., WR; Kyle Kurzinger, Jr., DE-HB; Brady Bendik, Jr., DE-HB; Stephen Scourtis, So., DE-HB

OUTLOOK: Even as we publish this preview, there is still no guarantee that State College will play a single game this fall. The season hinges on not only the responsibility of the players, but also their classmates and community as well. Assuming the Little Lions play games this fall, they will be doing so in the unforgiving Commonwealth Division, without the services of 12 graduated players who are now playing at the collegiate level. That’s not to say State College still can’t contend. Lintal’s squad returns a top-tier running back in Green and a swarming defense that can use its size to wear down opponents. Those two factors, along with the potential of QB Moore, will once again make the Little Lions a tough out for every opponent in the division.

3 THINGS TO KNOW
1. To play or not to play: 
State College is located in Centre County, home of Pennsylvania’s highest COVID-19 infection rate: 12.1% as of the start of Week 1. Lintal’s Little Lions have been jumping through every hoop and recently had a big off-the-field victory, which came in the form of a 7-2 vote from the school board to allow school sports this fall. State College’s decisions hinges on two conditions: The Little Lions being enrolled in full-time virtual learning, and the school itself meeting guidelines to have on-person learning.

“We’re obviously thrilled to have the opportunity, but there’s still a lot up in the air on a week-to-week basis,” Lintal said. “Our kids have been phenomenal with the way they’ve endured everything.

This is a trying time for all of these players, having to sit at home on Fridays watching our neighboring schools and teams in the district play. It’s tough.” Lintal, who doubles as a school counselor, understands that there are not only physical risks from playing football in the COVID era, but also mental consequences if the team does not play. “I don’t think anyone signed up for 2020, but that’s kind of where we’re at right now,” Lintal said. “It’s tough to make parenting decisions, let alone school decisions that affect a lot of people. I don’t envy the school officials having to make these calls, but I do know what the kids need for their emotional state of mind. Our kids are better together.”

2. Lions turn to first-year QB, experienced RB: Senior Conrad Moore has already proven himself as a competitive wide receiver, an elite high-jumper (recorded a leap of 6-foot-9 as a sophomore), and one of the brightest minds in the Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division (4.5 GPA). The question now is: Can Moore play quarterback? After seeing Moore take QB reps in practice and in game situations last year, Lintal is confident in his signal-caller.

“Conrad can run, throw, jump, catch and play defense,” Lintal said. “He’s a dynamic player with a great skill set, who is a great young man as well. I’m hoping that we will be given a chance to show him off this year.”

While Moore settles into the role, State College will be looking to RB Dresyn Green to help shoulder the load. Green is coming off back-to-back seasons of 1,000 yards and average 6.1 yards per carry last season. Lintal calls Green the toughest football player he’s ever coached. “It’s just the way he plays the game,” Lintal said. “Whether he’s carrying the ball, being the lead blocker, carrying out a fake, or making a tackle, he does not take a play off and plays in such a physical manner that he’s always going to get that extra yard and always going to put that extra effort into every play.”

3. Defense ready to “fly”: With DB Sammy Knipe and LB Ryan Domico patrolling the defense, Lintal feels really good about his team’s ability to slow down and stop opposing offenses this fall. Knipe, a Navy recruit, is larger than most high school athletes playing safety and is able to get his 6-1, 220-pound frame around the field in a hurry.

“He’s a tremendous safety,” Lintal said. “He’s just a force who covers so much ground, has ball skills, is physical and can stop the run.” Knipe will certainly be ready to make plays if the ball gets past Domico. That’s a big if. Like Knipe, Domico brings the 4.5-second 40-yard dash speed to the table and has a physical style of play to complement his game. “It’s tough to sneak one past him,” Lintal said. “Ryan is so instinctive and plays the game in such a physical manner. He just flies all over the field and has had a tremendous start to the season.”

Lintal also likes the play of DB Carson Franks, who he calls a “twin” of Knipe, and has growing enthusiasm for a completely revamped defensive front. What once was an area of concern after heavy graduation losses, the defensive line could end up being a strength by the end of the season. Lintal cites the play of DL Stevie Guthoff, DL Kyle Kurzinger, DE Stephen Scourtis and DL Emerson Martin, a transfer from North Carolina who checks in at 6-5, 245 pounds.

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