Highlands whips Derry
Highlands sophomore quarterback Blake Leri doesn't play hockey, but he did put up a hat trick.
Leri rushed for, threw and caught a touchdown pass in Highlands' 41-13 win over Class AAA Greater Allegheny Conference foe Derry on Friday night at Golden Rams Stadium.
“That's pretty impressive for a sophomore. He's a competitor,” Highlands coach Sam Albert said. “I haven't seen that type of competitiveness since Jeff Sinclair, or Luke Westerman when I had him at Freeport. That type of kid, they rally around him no matter what age he is.”
Sinclair, a 2009 Highlands grad, is a starter at Robert Morris, and Westerman, a 2004 Freeport graduate, played at Slippery Rock.
The play where Leri caught a touchdown pass is the only play designed for him — as a receiver. But no one was as surprised to see the ball come his way as Leri.
“I knew I was going to play a few positions,” Leri said. “I didn't think it was going to happen at all (Friday night).”
Junior tight end Allan Cratsenberg, who lined up in the backfield, hit Leri with the pass after taking the direct snap when Leri went in motion to the slot receiver position.
“It's nice to have somebody like Cratsenberg, who's versatile enough to come in and throw,” Albert said.
Leri ended up completing just four passes on 11 attempts for 66 yards. His last completion was a 28-yard strike to sophomore receiver Chris Fick.
“The nice thing about quarterback: People only remember your last throw,” Albert said. “You can throw five bad balls, but when you hit that one, you're back to being the hero.”
Leri rushed seven times for 40 yards.
Adding to the Highlands (2-4, 2-4) ground total was sophomore running back Elijah Jackson.
The 5-foot-7, 143 pound runner had 151 yards on 11 carries and scored twice.
“He runs inside hard. He runs hard every play,” Albert said. “He's hard to bring down. He runs with authority.”
Jackson opened the second half with an 86-yard touchdown.
“They aren't going to catch Elijah,” Albert said.
He wasted little time scoring again with a 7-yard touchdown on his next carry following a Derry (1-5, 0-5) turnover.
Senior kicker Mike Masarik hit two early field goals for Highlands, a 27- and 31-yarder.
“That's two (wins) now,” Albert said. “We just have to keep that momentum going into Greensburg (Salem).”
Dave Yohe is a freelance writer