WPIAL runner-up Derry turns focus to future after special season

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Sunday, August 18, 2019 | 11:41 AM


Derry coach Tim Sweeney doesn’t like to look back. He’s all about the present.

He doesn’t want his team to live on the Trojans’ past success. In 2018, Derry reached the WPIAL Class 3A championship game at Heinz Field.

Even though the Trojans lost to Aliquippa, the experience gave the players and fans lasting memories.

That squad set a high bar for future Derry teams.

So when his current team didn’t compete hard enough at the Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association seven-on-seven passing tournament last month, he didn’t hold back his feelings.

“I’m not in a good mood,” Sweeney said after the tournament.

But Sweeney was in a similar mood at the same event a year ago when he wasn’t pleased with the team’s commitment.

That group responded, and the Trojans ended up sharing the Interstate Conference title with Elizabeth Forward and North Catholic.

If the 2019 team wants to repeat that success, Sweeney must see it on the field and in their performance.

Derry has gone through an impressive run under Sweeney. In 2013, he took over a program that went 0-10 and allowed more than 50 points per game. The Trojans are 39-15 since and have won three consecutive conference titles.

If Derry wants to win a fourth, the Trojans will have to fill holes left by the graduation of some talented players, especially on defense.

Graduation took numerous starters, including Dom DeLuca, Colton Nemcheck, Justin Flack, Cullen Shawley, Bastien Anderson, Hunter Hebenthal and Onreey Stewart. Flack had an amazing senior season, leading the team in rushing. He also came through with an interception to seal a playoff win against North Catholic.

The cupboard isn’t totally bare at Derry, though, just a little thinner.

“We lost a lot of toughness,” Sweeney said. “I’m not worried about talent. We embarrassed ourselves at the seven-on-seven tournament.

“I’m worried about our toughness. We got punched in the face and didn’t respond. When that occurs you have to figure it out.”

Junior quarterback Paul Koontz is back, along with senior running back Justin Huss. Koontz threw for 613 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and Huss rushed for 127 yards, caught six passes for 145 yards and scored four times.

Four of five starting offensive linemen are back, headed by two cornerstone tackles: senior Max Malis, who recently received an appointment from the Air Force Academy, and Gavin Adams, who has an offer from St. Francis (Pa.).

“Those guys are worthy of the attention they are gathering,” Sweeney said. “What’s unique is the offensive line has been playing together for a long time. Some have been playing together for three years.

“It’s their last go-around, and it’s the strength of our team. We as a coaching staff believe games are won up front.”

The starting center spot is a competitive battle between Cain Latta and Justin Fallat. The guards are Lucas Ciocco and Seth Loughner.

“If we want to be a good football team, it all starts with our toughness,” Sweeney said. “Heinz Field is last year’s news. That means nothing to us. If we don’t become a tough team, we’ll be 0-10 faster than anyone thinks.”

Huss is the most experienced player in the backfield. He scored seven touchdowns as a sophomore but missed the first five games of last season with a broken leg.

“We have to be tougher,” Huss said. “We have to come out and set the tone early in games. We have to play harder than we are. If we play like this, it’s going to be rough.”

Huss is hoping his teammates turn things around and continue to work hard.

“We have to continue to work hard to get better every day at practice and be the best team we can,” Huss said. “I do believe we can be good again. It’s going to take a lot of hard work. We did lose a lot of good athletes from the senior class, but we have to continue to work hard in the summer.”

Schedule

Coach: Tim Sweeney

2018 record: 11-2, 7-1

All-time record: 255-342-14

Date, Opponent, Time

8.23, Latrobe, 7

8.30, Freeport*, 7

9.6, at South Park, 7

9.13, Mt. Pleasant*, 7

9.20, at North Catholic*+, 7

9.27, Elizabeth Forward*, 7

10.4, at Uniontown*, 7

10.11, Yough*, 7

10.18, at Deer Lakes*, 7

10.25, at Burrell*, 7

*Class 3A Big East Conference game

+At Mars

Statistical leaders

Passing: Paul Koontz

35-105, 613 yards, 11 TDs.

Rushing: Justin Flack*

181-1,334 yards, 38 TDs

Receiving: Flack*

10-275 yards

*Graduated

Derry roster

No., Name, Pos., Ht./Wt., Cl.

2, Graham Amari, RB, Jr.

3, Seanan Barca, WR, Sr.

4, Nick Detore, WR, Jr.

5, Elijah Ward, RB, Jr.

6, Alexandre Athayde, K, Sr.

9, Anthony Lang, WR, Fr.

11, Damien Bryces-Morales, K, Sr.

15, Nick Reeping, RB, Jr.

16, Paul Koontz, QB, Jr.

17, Tanner Nicely, WR, Sr.

18, Isaiah Ward, RB, Jr.

19, Chance Whie, K, So.

20, Codee Hafer, WR, So.

21, Justin Huss, RB, Sr.

22, Matt McDowell, QB/WR, Jr.

29, Nate Gray, K, Fr.

31, Zack Revoir, RB/QB, So.

32, Lucas Taylor, RB, Sr.

33, Emmett Anderson, RB, Sr.

34, Eric Catone, RB, So.

35, Braydon Micinak, RB, So.

42, Jordan Flack, WR/QB, Fr.

43, Pryce Donovan, RB, Jr.

48, Hunter Wack, WR, Jr.

54, Justin Fallat, OL, Sr.

55, Dom Patrick, OL, Fr.

56, Max Malis, OL, Sr.

57, Cain Latta, OL, Jr.

59, Elijah Penich, OL, Jr.

62, Dylan Rhoades, OL, So.

65, Seth Loughner, OL, Sr.

66, Noah Cymmerman, OL, So.

76, Lucas Ciocco, OL, Sr.

77, Gavin Adams, OL, Sr.

79, Greg Smith, OL, So.

84, Mike Kelly, RB, Jr.

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

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