Written by: Brendan Ricciardi on Thursday, September 22nd, 2022
STATE COLLEGE, Pa — The State College Little Lions are off to their best start since 2019 after winning four straight games, and they’ll get a big challenge this week as the Central Dauphin Rams come to Memorial Field.
With the exception of an instant classic 32-31 win over Downingtown East in Week 2, State College has dominated every game they’ve played in on both sides of the football since the season began.
In the three games outside of Downingtown East, the Little Lions have outscored their opponents 142-31, with a lot of those points allowed coming with the result of the game already decided.
A big reason for the success so far is that State College has been getting huge contributions from their veterans as well as some new faces.
Senior quarterback Finn Furmanek has been stellar for the Little Lions, with four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns through four games. He has completed 63% of his passes, but more importantly, has not turned the football over.
Not only is Furmanek the starting quarterback, he’s also third on the team in receiving yards as well. When Donte Nastasi, Michael Gaul, or Ty Salazer need a break, Furmanek will switch over to wide receiver and junior Owen Yerka will take over at quarterback.
A new face that has been turning some heads so far this year is D’Antae Sheffey, a freshman running back that currently leads the Mid-Penn Conference in rushing yards with 536 on only 53 carries. For those counting at home, that would be 10.1 yards per carry and an average of 134 yards per game. He also has seven touchdowns as well.
Did we mention he’s just a freshman?
While a lot of the focus is rightfully on Sheffey and the offense, the State College defense sets the tone week in and week out as well.
If you look at the stat sheet, you really don’t get the full story. Through five games, the Little Lions have only forced five turnovers and recorded eight sacks. Nothing that really jumps off the page and screams “elite” from the outside.
However, watching them play tells a different story.
The Little Lions defense is absolutely suffocating against the run, never letting teams get comfortable in establishing it. That was in full effect last weekend against an Altoona team and their triple-option offense that never really got going. Michael Gaul, John Scott, Stephen Scourtis, and Cooper Brushwood are among the leaders in this team in tackles. Sophomore Sam Mayer leads the team with four sacks.
While the number of turnovers the defense has may not be astronomical, part of that is because they are not really on the field that often with all of the three-and-outs that they cause.
The Little Lions have taken care of business against Williamsport, Downingtown East, Hollidaysburg, and Altoona. Their next matchup is a bit of a measuring stick game to see how they truly compare.
The Central Dauphin Rams are coming to town, and they have had the Little Lions’ number recently, taking each of the last three matchups dating back to 2018 in rather comfortable fashion:
2021: Central Dauphin 42, State College 21
2020: Central Dauphin 35, State College 13
2019: Central Dauphin 34, State College 13
That 2019 game would be the most comparable atmosphere to what we will see on Friday night, as State College came into that game at 7-0 before falling to the Rams.
Central Dauphin is 1-3 on the year, and 1-0 in the Mid-Penn Commonwealth. Don’t let that record fool you, however, as they have had a challenging out of conference schedule to open the year.
The Rams went on the road to Coatesville and lost a close 34-28 game in Week 3 before taking their first conference game last week 42-35 over Chambersburg.
Central Dauphin is lead by junior quarterback Keyron Plummer, who has 206 yards passing and a touchdown through three games. In addition to that, he’s also added 111 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground.
The Rams have found a lot of success so far with their two-headed monster at running back, with seniors Devin Shepherd and David Chase both having great starts to their season.
Shepherd has carried 56 times for 362 yards, averaging 6.5 yards a carry with four touchdowns. As for Chase, he’s carried the ball 41 times for 275 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per carry with four touchdowns as well.
Both of these guys are also the top two leaders on the team in receiving yards, as Chase has 87 and Shepherd has 78.
Not only is Shepherd an offensive threat, he also leads the team in tackles as well with 35. Jett Franz is also a name to watch out for the Rams, as he is first on the team in sacks with 6.5 and second in tackles with 32.
This matchup will take place at 7:00 on Friday night in State College at Memorial Field, as the Little Lions have a chance to take this matchup for the first time since 2018 and try and establish themselves as the team to beat in the Mid-Penn Commonwealth.
Follow PA Football News on Twitter @PaFootballNews