Huss’ run ignites Derry’s comeback victory against Elizabeth Forward

Friday, September 27, 2019 | 11:04 PM

It wasn’t looking good for the Derry football team in the third quarter.

The Trojans were down 10 points to No. 3 Elizabeth Forward and needed a spark. Senior running back Justin Huss provided it.

Huss ripped off an 80-yard touchdown and added two more scores before the third quarter was over after two Warriors turnovers, and Derry stormed back for a 26-17 victory Friday at Trojan Stadium.

Huss, held out of last week’s North Catholic game with an injury, finished with 129 yards rushing and scored on runs of 2 and 1 yards. He had a 70-yard touchdown called back because of a penalty.

“He’s the best running back in the conference,” Derry coach Tim Sweeney said. “He provided us the spark when we needed it.”

No. 5 Derry is 4-2 and 3-1 in the WPIAL Class 3A Big East Conference. Elizabeth Forward falls to 4-1 and 3-1.

Elizabeth Forward’s defense provided the Warriors a 14-0 lead as Nico Mrvos returned an interception 57 yards in the first quarter, and freshman Zach Boyd scored on a 30-yard interception return.

“We made some mistakes collectively as a team, and they capitalized on them,” Elizabeth Forward coach Mike Collodi said. “That’s what good teams do. When get into the red zone, we have to score touchdowns. I have to do a better job coaching.”

Derry’s defense force two field goals. Elizabeth Forward was inside the Derry 5 and settled for a 25-yard field-goal attempt, which Andrew Smith missed.

In the third quarter, Smith nailed a 37-yard field goal to push the Warriors’ lead to 17-7.

That was before Huss changed the momentum.

On the first play following the field goal, Huss took the handoff, took two steps to his right and then sliced through the defense for the 80-yard score.

The touchdown fired up Derry and stunned Elizabeth Forward.

“The credit to the offensive line. They do everything for us,” Huss said. “Without them we don’t do anything on offense, and our defense stepped up in the second half to get us the momentum back. We knew the defense had to step up when we went down early.”

On Elizabeth Forward’s next possession, Mrvos, under pressure from the Derry’s defensive line, was picked off by Tanner Nicely, who raced 45 yards to set up Huss’s 2-yard score to make it 19-17.

On the next possession, a rattled Mrvos fumbled three times, with Derry’s Noah Cymmerman recovering the final one at the EF 26.

Huss scored from the 1 to make it 26-17.

“Every game is big,” Sweeney said. “Justin is a game-changer. When he gets in the opened field, he’s explosive.”

Derry was able to trim the Elizabeth Forward lead to 14-7 by halftime on a trick play. Paul Koontz handed the ball to Huss, who started to his left and then threw a perfect strike to Koontz for a 14-yard score.

“It was a good call,” Sweeney said. “We needed something to spark us, and it sparked us a little bit. It’s something we practiced this week.”

Sweeney also was proud of how his defense played. Elizabeth Forward finished with 130 yards rushing, and Mrvos completed 5 of 13 passes for 42 yards.

Derry rushed for 184 yards and had 50 yards passing.

“The defense played pretty solid,” Sweeney said. “The game plan was solid.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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