Derry runs past Burrell in crucial Big East Conference matchup

Friday, October 25, 2019 | 11:19 PM

Derry coach Tim Sweeney put it best earlier this week when he talked about senior running back Justin Huss as they headed into their WPIAL Class 3A Big East Conference matchup with Burrell.

“I feel safe in saying he’s the best running back in our conference, and he might be the best running back in 3A,” Sweeney said. “But that’s also a tribute to our offensive line because that’s where it starts.”

On Friday night at Burrell, Huss and the Derry line lived up their billing as the 5-foot-9, 155-pound running back carried the ball 25 times for 405 yards, including touchdown runs of 17, 55, 65, 67, and 61 yards.

It was the type of performance the Trojans needed as they ran away with a 56-32 Big East Conference victory and denied the Bucs their first playoff berth since 2012.

“Burrell is a good team, and we knew they were going to come out hungry because they had to win this game to get into the playoffs,” Huss said. “But our offense did great, and the offensive line did awesome tonight for me to be able to do that.”

Huss scored two touchdowns in the first five minutes of the game. On both occasions, the Trojans defense forced three-and-outs and Huss capped off short drives by finding easy running lanes and taking advantage of his speed to hit gaps.

On the first drive, it took Huss seven plays to find the end zone. On the next, it took him four as he scampered 55 yards.

“I think it was a good example of what he can do but also what our offensive line can do, and he’d probably be the first one to tell you that,” Sweeney said. “Without our guys up front opening holes for him, all great running backs have great lines in front of them and that’s the situation he’s in.”

Although the Trojans were ahead, the Bucs didn’t go away. On their third offensive drive, they started to find a rhythm as Alex Arledge, who finished with 348 yards and four touchdowns through the air, found Zach Miller for a 15-yard touchdown to bring his team within a score.

But the Trojans answered almost immediately as Mike Kelly took a fullback dive 42 yards to the house to extend the lead. Paul Koontz found the end zone on Derry’s following drive, and from there the Trojans controlled the game.

“We wanted this game bad,” Burrell coach Shawn Liotta said. “But we had some mistakes early, some penalties and some other things that hurt us early in the game, which got us into a hole.”

From there, anytime Burrell scored, Derry would answer. After Koontz’s touchdown run, Arledge found Dom Holmes for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Two plays later, Huss broke off a 65-yard touchdown run.

Two minutes after his third touchdown, Huss got his fourth on a 67-yard run.

“He’s done that to a lot of teams this year, and I told coach Sweeney, ‘All that kid needs is a crease, and he’s gone,’ ” Liotta said. “He’s a track star for a reason.”

The Bucs missed the playoffs but finished with their first winning season since 2012. The Trojans will learn their first-round opponent when the playoff pairings are released at 7 p.m. Monday night on the TribLIVE High School Sports Network.

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

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