Playoff-bound Hempfield tops young Norwin
Injuries have taken a toll on Norwin's football team, but they haven't diminished the squad's effort.
The Knights were defeated at home Friday in their Quad East Conference finale, 42-8, by a Hempfield team that clinched its spot in the WPIAL playoffs with the victory.
Norwin (1-7, 1-7) kept the game close into the final quarter, at one point trailing just 14-8 in the second half, but an experienced and motivated Spartans (4-4, 4-3) squad turned out to be too much for the Knights.
Head coach Art Tragesser has been forced to manipulate his lineup in recent weeks, as injuries have limited some players' ability to play both sides of the ball and ruled others out completely.
“I don't think we had a kid starting on our defensive line over 200 pounds,” Tragesser said. “You know you're in a little bit of trouble when, before the game, one of the officials says, ‘Holy cow, are you guys small.'
“We have some guys who are slowed, so we're only playing them on one side of the ball. We played a lot better than the score indicates, but we had some young guys that have really been thrown into the fire.”
One area of the field where that was the case was in the secondary, where freshman Peyton Deri and sophomores Zeke Kljucaric and Zach Hall got starts against a Hempfield team that plays almost exclusively juniors and seniors.
“Considering that two weeks ago, that was our starting JV secondary, they played well,” Tragesser said.
“Those guys are going to be really good players, but there were moments when they were just a little too cautious. Zeke and Peyton both had plays that, a year from now, they're probably picking off those same passes. But they're gaining tremendous experience, they're excited for the opportunity, and they really hustle. It's fun coaching guys like that.”
The Knights went to halftime trailing, 14-2, as Hempfield posted a touchdown pass by Ty George and a touchdown run by DeLorian Day on each side of a safety by the Norwin defense.
In the second half, Norwin scored first on a 25-yard run by Casey Rebosky, but the Spartans posted 28 unanswered points to finish the game.
With a playoff berth out of the question, Tragesser said the team is exploring the possibility of playing a game in Week 10.
If no opponent is found, this Friday will be the Knights' final contest of the year when they host Shaler (0-8) in a nonconference game at 7:30 p.m.
The Titans have struggled mightily this year, especially on offense, where Shaler has scored more than eight points only twice all season.
But Shaler does play a much stronger schedule than the Knights as members of a Quad North Conference that has four teams ranked in Quad-A's top 10.
“I'm not going to say we're a better team because we've won a game, and they haven't, because they are in a little tougher section,” Tragesser said. “It's senior night. That's our motivation for everyone to pull together and try to send the seniors out right.
“All season, I haven't felt like we're a one-win team. The practices have always been good and spirited. It's not drudgery, and I can see how much potential is there; we just haven't been able to take the next step, yet.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.