Highlands routs Derry, keeps pace atop conference
Highlands overcame a sluggish start to defeat Derry, 57-7, in a key Greater Allegheny Conference game at Trojans Stadium.
The victory leaves No. 9 Highlands (5-1, 5-1) one-half game in front of No. 5 Mars, which beat Uniontown in a nonconference game.
Junior Elijah Jackson led Highlands with 195 yards rushing on 15 carries. He scored three touchdowns in the first half, two rushing and one on a 29-yard reception from quarterback Blake Leri. Jackson had just two rushes in the second half.
“We have a long way to go,” Highlands coach Sam Albert said. “We had too many mistakes out there. And we've got some great football teams yet to play.”
Highlands will host Greensburg Salem on Friday, and Derry (0-5, 0-6) will play at Hampton.
“We have tough kids at Highlands, and they always play hard,” Albert said. “And you saw our defense come out and play a good game. We came off an emotional win last week (over Indiana) and sometimes it is hard to get back up. But football is a game that must be played with emotion.”
Leri completed 3 of 8 passes in the first half for 104 yards and two touchdowns and did not play in the second half.
Derry quarterback Kyle Holmes completed 3 of 8 for 44 yards and one interception.
For the game Highlands totaled 474 yards, including 327 rushing, to Derry's 144 yards.
Dominic Martinka got the bulk of the carries after Jackson was pulled, rushing for 98 yards and two scores on nine attempts.
The first four combined possessions were sloppy, featuring more penalty flags (eight) than points (seven). Highlands broke open the scoring with an eight-play drive that took 3 minutes, 14 seconds and culminated with Jackson's first score, a 5-yard run up the middle.
Highlands forced a Derry punt and took over at its own 26. Three runs by Jackson put the ball at the Derry 30 and from there it took four plays to score.
On fourth down, Leri got off a short pass to Jackson just as Derry's Clint Beeman was hitting him in the backfield. Jackson caught the ball and ran in for a 29-yard touchdown.
Once again, Derry's offense struggled and the Golden Rams took over at their own 20. Two plays later, Jackson raced 80 yards for a touchdown to put Highlands up, 21-0. The Golden Rams added one more score before halftime, a 48-yard reception from Jeremy Jackson to make the score, 28-0.
Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.