Sloppy first half marks Derry Area loss to Indiana Area, 28-7

| Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, 9:13 p.m.

The Derry Area Trojans last Friday were hoping for a Homecoming Night victory against their winless visitors from Indiana Area. But those hopes were dashed after a first half of mistakes and missed opportunities that found the Trojans on the short end of a 28-7 score.

“We didn't play very well in the first half, and that hurt us” Derry Area head coach Al Gaiardo said. “ In the second half, we played extremely well. We were beating them 7-0.... If we had played that way the entire game, it would have been an even game, and maybe it would have come down to us being able to kick a field goal to win.”

Things started on a down note for Derry Area (0-3, 1-3) when starting quarterback Robbie Hebenthal was dropped for a 5-yard loss and the Trojans' first drive stalled after 24 yards on six plays. Indiana Area (1-3, 1-3) ended its first series with a net loss of one yard in just under two minutes, but visiting QB DeQuan West more than made up for that temporary setback — rushing for a total of 164 yards including two touchdowns and connecting on four of nine passes for 94 yards and an additional TD.

The Little Indians took full advantage of two first-half interceptions that led to their first two scores. The first miscue came on the Trojans' second drive when Hebenthal, who completed 19 of 40 passes for 216 yards, was picked off over the middle by West. The Little Indians covered 77 yards on 10 plays, capped by Jordan Casses' 14-yard TD run. The next interception came two series later when Hebenthal was picked by Jacob Zilinskas in Trojans territory. Three plays later, West hit Riley Stapleton for a 20-yard touchdown to give the visitors a 14-0 lead at the 7:05-mark of the second quarter.

“A lot of times you have interceptions because the quarterback's feet aren't set or the receiver doesn't run the correct route, and so it was a combination of both those things,” Gaiardo said.

Things didn't get much better for the Trojans as they lost 84 yards on nine first-half penalties. The Little Indians were penalized 13 times for 130 the entire game but managed to overcome most of them.

Indiana Area increased its lead to 21-0 before the half as Casses combined two productive runs of 32 yards and West finished with a 3-yard TD run. Casses totaled 77 yards on eight touches for the night.

The Trojans blew one more opportunity to score in the first half, when a bobbled snap sabotaged a 41-yard field goal attempt with 24 seconds left.

It looked as if the Trojans would make a game of it early in the second half. Josh Wannamaker pulled in a 62-yard pass from Hebenthal that put the Trojans on the IA 10 yard line. Soon Hebenthal fired a 5-yard pass to Austin Ellmer to put DA on the board, 21-7.

Both teams struggled back and forth before Indiana Area managed to penetrate the goal line one last time. On third and long, West bolted up the middle for a 56-yard TD with 1:22 left, extending the lead to 28-7.

The Trojans' final possession ended after only one play, the result of an interception by Casses.

Derry Area travels to Hollidaysburg at 7 p.m. Friday for another challenging Greater Allegheny Conference contest.

“Hollidaysburg has some big guys up front,” Gaiardo said. “We hopefully will get one of our linemen back, Lloyd Zulisky, who suffered a concussion. We're hoping to run the ball more effectively and run a little more play action. However, defensively, we have to be able to stop the run. If we don't, were not going to win many games.

“I know they run the zone-read on offense. They're very good at what they do, and they do it out of a lot of different formations. Defensively, they mix it up with three or four different fronts, and they like to blitz a lot, so if we carry out our assignments and we do what we know we can do, we should be able to handle what they throw at us.”

Kevin Liberoni is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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