High school football notebook: Keeping it simple works for Derry defense
Thursday, September 28, 2017 | 6:57 PM
Derry keeps things simple because simple works.
The Trojans are about as flashy as a hamburger with no bun, as business-like as a census taker, yet they continue to win, building off one of the most exciting seasons in program history.
Derry sits at 4-1 overall and 3-1 in the Interstate Conference as it gets set to host Frazier (0-5) in a nonconference game Friday night.
Big defensive plays last week helped remind the rest of Class 3A that Derry isn't going anywhere, anytime soon.
Three Derry defensive players scored off fumbles and the Trojans also forced a safety in last week's head-turning, 43-0 win over South Park. The Trojans also intercepted two passes.
For the season, Derry is allowing 13.6 points, 93.6 passing yards and 122.8 rushing yards.
Back to that simplicity: even the defensive schemes are straightforward.
“What makes us good as a defense is that we're getting to the football,” junior linebacker Dom DeLuca said. “That's something the coaches preach to us daily. Good things happen when you have 11 guys converging to the football. This offseason we went back to our core as a defense: proper tackling, pursuit angles, identify formations (etc. …).
“The coaches come up with good game plans every week.”
Opponents have scored zero points in the fourth quarter in five games.
The Trojans have forced 13 turnovers.
Derry went 11-1 last season, finished the regular season undefeated for the first time and reached the WPIAL semifinals. The streamers and confetti might have made the Trojans blush, but they took the program up a level.
Many coaches doubted the team would wilt any, if at all, despite some key graduation losses.
“I think it's that they believe in what they're doing,” Yough coach Scott Wood said. “They run a great program. They're simple in what they do. Their uniforms are plain and their coach wears a shirt and tie on the sidelines.”
Wood said he interacts with Sweeney, always looking to pick his brain to better improve his own program — and defense.
“You want to know what they're doing,” Wood said. “Because they do it well.”
In a rush
There haven't been many running games as good as Penn-Trafford's this season. The Warriors piled up 453 yards on the ground last week in a 42-16 win over Latrobe. Sophomore Caleb Lisbon (187, 3 TDs) and John Gay IV (148, TD) both had big games, giving the Warriors three games this season with two 100-yard rushers. Quarterback Cam Laffoon ran for 92 yards in the win.
The team is averaging 274.2 rushing yards. Gay has a team-high 525 yards, Lisbon 405 and Laffoon 405. Gay and Lisbon each have seven touchdowns.
Hempfield welcomed back senior quarterback Justin Sliwoski last week in a 23-15 loss at Peters Township. Sliwoski, back from resting a separated right shoulder, completed 21 of 37 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns in his return, which was a last-minute decision by coach Rich Bowen.
Sliwoski, who is getting Division I attention, was anxious to return.
“I was so excited to play and get back out with my teammates,” Sliwoski said. “Sitting on the sidelines was tough for me the weeks before. There is still a ton of football to play, and I'm really looking forward to the second half of the season and to keep improving.”
Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said sophomore quarterback Sam Sheeder will miss the rest of the season with a leg injury. Sheeder was injured on the second play of the Sept. 15 game at Penns Manor.
Sophomore John Caldwell and senior Jackson Daugherty will share the quarterback duties. Daugherty has completed 4 of 6 passes for 149 yards and four touchdowns, including three to Aaron Tutino last week. Caldwell has completed 17 of 23 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns.
Ligonier Valley is 5-0 and ranked fifth in the state.
Jeannette will be without sophomore linebacker Justin Cramer on Friday night against Bishop Canevin. And he could miss more time.
Cramer (6-foot, 190 pounds), the team's leading tackler, will miss time with a knee injury, coach Roy Hall confirmed.
Armstrong, Lauer offered
Latrobe's Jason Armstrong has been impressive this season as a first-year starting quarterback, linebacker and punter. The do-it-all senior received his first Division I scholarship offer, from Virginia Military Institute. Armstrong (6-2, 220) also has offers from Division II schools Seton Hill and Millersville. He has passed for 800 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 320 yards and three scores.
Franklin Regional senior linebacker Bryce Lauer, meantime, has an offer from Duquesne. Robert Morris also offered Lauer, who has 81 tackles this season.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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