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If healthy, Derry expects to become more consistent

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 8:00 p.m.
Derry Area running back Sal DeCario. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Derry Area wide receiver Tyler Matusak. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Derry Area head coach Al Gaiardo runs a drill. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Derry Area quarterback Robby Hebenthal. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Derry Area head coach Al Gaiardo runs a drill. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Derry Area tight end Clint Beeman. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review

Oh, that injury bug. It certainly bit the Derry football team last year.

Trying to reverse a losing trend, Derry needs some stability in its lineup. Avoiding injuries should help.

“We think we can make some progress, but we've got to stay off the injuries,” Derry coach Al Gaiardo said.

The Trojans' 2011 record was respectable before leading rusher Josh Wannamaker tore his ACL and quarterback Robbie Hebenthal broke his collarbone in a victory over Albert Gallatin that evened their mark at 2-2.

The two were lost for the season and Derry went winless the rest of the way, finishing at 2-7 with a five-game losing streak.

Gaiardo, a former St. Vincent College assistant, is trying to convince his teams that they can win consistently. He uses his experience at upstart St. Vincent as motivation. The NCAA Division III Bearcats revived their football program in 2007 and didn't post a winning record until going 6-5 last season.

“The big hurdle in taking over a program is convincing the kids that they can win,” he said. “You tell the stories, like we barely competed with any team when we first got it going at St. Vincent, but here they were four years later winning.”

It isn't just injuries that compounded matters at Class AAA Derry, which moves to the Greater Allegheny Conference from the Keystone Conference. Depth on the roster also has been an issue.

“Once those two (Wannamaker and Hebenthal) went down, that was a big blow to our team,” Gaiardo said. “The dropoff from first team to second team was pretty noticeable.”

Senior kicker Tyler Matusak, who is attracting interest from Division I FCS schools, such as Bucknell, Lafayette and Villanova, also plays wide receiver and cornerback.

“But where he excels is in field-goal kicking,” Gaiardo said. “Having Tyler on the team is another weapon for us. If the game is close, it's nice to have a guy like him around.”

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