Derry, Freeport coaches expect another battle in Big East Conference opener

Wednesday, August 28, 2019 | 8:09 PM

If you were to compare the Derry and Freeport football teams this season, you might not find many differences, and both coaches take pride in that sentiment.

“If somebody called Derry the Freeport of Westmoreland County, I would take that as a compliment,” Derry coach Tim Sweeney said.

“We’re both competitors. It’s kind of like looking at yourself in the mirror with Derry and what coach Sweeney has established over there,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said.

One year ago, the pair of hard-nosed football teams provided an entertaining Week 1 matchup. The Trojans stormed back from a 13-0 second-half deficit to hand the Yellowjackets their first loss of the season in overtime.

Expect a similar contest Friday for the Class 3A Big East Conference opener, because while the players might be different, the style of play hasn’t changed. Both teams are prepared for a hard-hitting and competitive football game.

“They are just an old-school type of team,” Gaillot said. “They have a line up-and-push-you-around-type of offense. They have hard-nosed, hard-working kids. You can see that on film last year and this year, and we try to be that way too. That’s our goal.”

In a Week Zero matchup last Friday, Derry (0-1) lost to longtime rival Latrobe, 20-14, in overtime. The Trojans scored both of their touchdowns through the air but gave up a 91-yard kickoff return touchdown and also turned the ball over.

Sweeney said the Trojans need to improve in many areas to garner a victory on Friday.

“It starts with me. I need to be a better head coach,” Sweeney said. “I was a terrible coach last week, and I admitted my shortcomings to my coaching staff Saturday morning. It starts with me. It starts with the coaching staff, and, hopefully, we can get out of our players what we are hoping to get out of them.”

The Trojans have somewhat of a different look compared to last year, when they relied on running backs Justin Flack and Onreey Stewart and a big offensive line. While Max Malis and Gavin Adams still lead the charge in the trenches, the Trojans have a few other playmakers who can get the job done.

“(Justin Huss) is definitely solid. He has a ton of speed, and that creates the problems for us,” Gaillot said. “Then, you have their quarterback (Paul Koontz) who manages the game and throws the ball well. They also have another core group of receivers that can catch the ball.”

Freeport will field a talented and experienced line in its season opener, which will give new quarterback Garrett Schaffhauser protection, but they also will open up enough holes that will allow him to scramble. Isaiah Bauman is a target for the first-year quarterback.

“I see a lot of tough kids. They are tough, and they fly to the ball,” Sweeney said. “They kind of play old school, and they embrace that. They love to play football, and they are a joy to watch to be honest with you.”

Bauman said last year’s loss to Derry devastated him and his teammates, and it showed as they lost to North Catholic and Elizabeth Forward in weeks following. But this year, Bauman is hoping they can use a victory in their Week 1 matchup as a springboard to get through the early stages of their season.

“That loss broke us last year,” Bauman said. “This year, we feel like we’ve recovered from that and with solid senior leadership this year we are hoping it helps because the beginning of our schedule is tough.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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