Derry, Ligonier Valley football fall short in quest for district titles
Derry football players did not wear sleeves on a cold Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field.
The reason: two parts blue-collar toughness, one part team custom.
Had the Trojans worn sleeves, they wouldn’t have had any magic up them this time.
A rough start put Derry behind early, and the team gave away six turnovers in a 42-19 loss to vaunted Aliquippa in the WPIAL Class 3A championship on the North Shore.
The Trojans’ thrilling season is done at 11-2 after they reached the district final for the first time in Derry Area history.
“It was a storybook season,” senior running back Colton Nemcheck said. “It just had one flaw: We didn’t get the result we wanted.”
Aliquippa (12-1) won its 17th WPIAL title in its 11th consecutive trip to the championship game.
Derry, which rallied from a 19-point deficit in the semifinals to down North Catholic, 36-29, could not summon sparks this time in front of hundreds of fans, who showed up early to tailgate and stayed after to console the players.
“It was very hard to overcome (the rough start),” Derry coach Tim Sweeney said. “We dug ourselves in a hole and never came out of it.”
Later Saturday night, two-and-a-half hours to the east in Altoona, Ligonier Valley had its run of District 6 2A titles come to an end.
The two-time reigning district-champion Rams, who were forced to play much of the second half without injured star wide receiver Aaron Tutino, dropped a 21-12 decision to top-seeded Richland at Mansion Park Stadium.
Ligonier Valley, the Heritage Conference champion, finished its season 12-1.
Tutino, the PIAA’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions, who went down with an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return, scored on a 1-yard pass from Sam Sheeder, and a 56-yard pass from John Caldwell would give the Rams a 12-0 lead in the first quarter. Richland (13-0), however, scored 21 unanswered points to seal the win.
Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BillBeckner.