Derry's young roster sparking a revival

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

A majority of Derry's marquee players are gone, yet the Trojans' spirits are high heading into the 2013 season.

Not a bad attitude for a program that has had just one non-losing record (.500 in 2008-09) in a decade.

“The kids that are here now understand that there's an opportunity,” Derry third-year coach Al Gaiardo said.

As usual, there's work to be done. Derry's 44-man roster has just nine seniors.

For the current group, it is yet another chance to turn around a program that has seen its share of losing. Derry has won just eight games since a 5-5 mark in 2008 and is coming off a 1-8 campaign in 2012, including 0-8 in the WPIAL Class AAA Greater Allegheny Conference.

“We're going to get it turned around here, but we knew it wasn't going to happen overnight,” Gaiardo said.

Excuses aside, injuries have plagued the Trojans in Gaiardo's first two years. Departed quarterback Rob Hebenthal and leading rusher and receiver Josh Wannamaker missed much of the past two years with major ailments.

The biggest challenge Gaiardo faces is convincing the team to establish an identity now that Hebenthal and Wannamaker have graduated.

A lot of competition at every position is expected.

“That's one of the things I like about this team,” Gaiardo said. “They're very unselfish. These guys will move to other positions to help the team.”

Senior tight end Clint Beeman and junior running back Josh Flack are among players Gaiardo was expecting to step into leadership roles. Senior Kyle Holmes, who replaced the injured Hebenthal last season at quarterback, is likely to return to that role.

Seniors Sal DeCario and Lloyd Zulisky and junior T.J. Balega are two-way performers who also have impressed Gaiardo.

Former Derry great Kyle Schmitt, who played at the University of Maryland and currently is a high school coach at Severn Archbishop Spalding (Md.), has made occasional appearances in the Derry locker room through the years, and it has served as an inspiration to the Trojans.

“The guys are moved by that,” Gaiardo said. “We talk about the great players who've come through Derry in the past, and I believe that it can show this group about the value of working yourself into a position to succeed. It gives these guys a reason to believe they can do that type of thing, make a name for yourself and put Derry back on the map.”

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