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Saltsburg is stymied by North Star, still looks for first win

| Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, 9:13 p.m.

Saltsburg traveled to North Star last Friday looking for its first win of the season. Instead, the Trojans endured a 40-7 thrashing at the hands of the Cougars and dropped to 0-4 while their hosts improved to 3-1 following the non-conference contest.

As in the previous week, Saltsburg missed a golden opportunity to take an early lead. Brody Bieda recovered Thomas Miller's fumble on the game's second play, but the Trojans could not muster any offense and had to punt. Starting from their own 25, the Cougars reached the end zone in 10 plays and four minutes. Miller atoned for the earlier turnover, crossing the goal line from 14 yards out, and Brantley Rice's kick made the score 7-0 North Star.

The Trojans offense was stymied throughout the rest of the half. Saltsburg did not record a first down until the fourth quarter; at that point, the game was well out of hand. Saltsburg did have opportunities in the first half. Along with Bieda's fumble recovery, Trojans Mitchel Yard and Steve Richards each intercepted a Cougar pass.

Saltsburg's inability to take advantage of its opponents' miscues seems to have become a bad trend for the team. “We need to take advantage of those opportunities,” said Saltsburg coach Tim Frassenei. “It happened to us last week, and when we had opportunities tonight, we did the same thing — we didn't respond.”

North Star, on the other hand, had no trouble scoring in the second quarter. After Richards was stopped two yards short of a first down at the North Star 25, the Cougars needed only two plays to register their second touchdown. First backup quarterback Tony Strasiser tossed a pass to Rusty Miller, and the tight end rambled 74 yards to the Trojan 1. On the next play, Strasiser knifed into the end zone.

Near the end of the first half, North Star scored again when David Saylor ran into the end zone from 7 yards out.

Said Frassenei, “Tackle to tackle, North Star is a tough ball club. They're well coached and they execute. We had too many missed tackles — one-yard gains turned into eight-yard gains.”

Aided by a 15-yard aerial connection from Rice to Strasiser and a nifty 23-yard run by Shawn Costas, the Cougars had the ball at the Trojans 3 as the third quarter ended. Costas took the ball into the end zone on the first play of the final quarter.

North Star head coach Stacy Schmitt commented on his team's success: “Our kids have been a successful group for the past two years. They've learned to deal with the ups and downs, as we did tonight in the first half. Tonight our defense played awesome, as our line and linebackers seemed always to have a clear line to their running backs.”

On Saltsburg's first drive of the fourth quarter, the Trojans garnered their initial first down of the evening. The team moved from its own 15 to the Cougars 49, but Tyler Frassenei's fourth-down pass was intercepted by Rice, who returned it for North Star's penultimate touchdown.

On the Trojans' second possession of the quarter, they finally hit pay dirt. With 5:45 showing on the game clock, Bieda, playing his first game of the season, scored from 22 yards out. Glen Ritchie tacked on the extra point.

The remainder of the game became a JV affair. North Star's freshman Tanner Friedline concluded the evening's scoring with a 20-yard run.

On Friday, each team resumes action in its respective conference. North Star travels to Berlin while Saltsburg returns home to welcome United, another 0-4 team.

Said Frassenei, “Our backs are to the wall. It will be our Homecoming, so our kids should be sky high.”

Kevin Judge is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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