Second-half mistakes lead to Derry Area loss
For one half, Derry Area performed as though it was on the verge of presenting new head coach Ron Polinsky with his first win after scoring 10 unanswered points in the first 24 minutes of football.
But when Derry's opening Keystone Conference game at Laurel Highlands ended it was the Mustangs who celebrated.
A 24-yard field goal by placekicker Alex Russell gave the host Mustangs a hard-fought 13-10 win over the Trojans, who are still looking for something positive to turn around a thus far disappointing season.
While Russell took center stage at the end, it was senior quarterback Dan Pegg who had a big game as he completed 14 of 27 passes for 124 yards and one touchdown. Pegg also rushed for 22 yards in less than favorable playing conditions.
The Trojans were held scoreless in their two previous games against Latrobe and Indiana but last Friday night's loss in Fayette County was the hardest to take because Derry lost a 10-point halftime lead.
"It was a disappointing loss for all because we just couldn't put two halves of football together, in a lot of ways we kind of fell apart in the second half and that really hurt," said Polinsky.
With 51 seconds remaining in the game, Randy Rankin gathered in a DA punt and ran to the Trojan 36. Pegg then threw a seven-yard pass to Rankin and a four-yarder to Eric Yarborough, which gave the Mustangs a first down at the DA 24.
But the Mustangs were flagged for a holding penalty, which moved the ball back to the DA 35.
Pegg connected with Steve Lewis at the 20, who then rambled to the DA 7.
Russell was then called upon to kick what was the winning field goal.
"Even though it was a very disappointing loss I saw some improvement in our football team, but what really hurt us tonight were costly mistakes in the second half which really hurt us in the end," Polinsky said.
On the opening possession of the game, Derry Area put together a 10-play drive, which ended when Dakota Rhodes booted a 34-yard field goal. Conditions were difficult for both kickers because the playing field was made soggy by a steady drizzle which fell for most of the opening half.
Late in the opening half the Trojans made a break for themselves when Bobby Mroskey intercepted a pass by Pegg and returned it to the LH 14. On first down senior quarterback Scott Yeckley threw a 14-yard TD pass to Zack Matusak.
Rhodes came on to kick the extra point and the Trojans took a 10-0 lead into halftime.
But in the second half the Trojans saw the tables turned on them as the Mustangs (1-0,1-2) started driving in a hurry.
Prior to the game, Polinsky was concerned as to whether his defense would be able to contain Pegg, and much to Polinsky's disappointment the Trojans defense failed to do so in the second half.
Behind Pegg, the Mustangs finally put points on the board in the third quarter.
With 4:50 remaining in the third Russell booted a 29 yard field goal which cut the Trojan lead to 10-3.
The Mustang defense was stingy in the second half as they limited the Trojans to one first down and a mere 36 yards in the final two quarters.
Linebacker Eric Yarborough was a defensive standout for the Mustangs with two key interceptions on the night. The biggest came at the DA 11 when he picked off Yeckley to set up a score that would tie the game.
With 8:06 remaining in the contest Pegg threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Randy Rankin. Russell came in to boot the extra point and the game was tied 10-10.
The Mustangs more than lived up to their reputation as a passing team on the strength of Pegg's steller performance.
The Trojans will continue Keystone Conference play at home tonight when they entertain Albert Gallatin, who was a 29-21 winner against Uniontown last week. This will be the third meeting between the schools.
Polinsky gave his team a warning that they will face a quarterback similar to Pegg this week in Albert Gallatin.
The Trojans (0-1,0-3) were led by Josh Hemminger, who rushed for 83 yards on 13 carries.
Quarterback Scott Yeckley completed four of 12 passes for 46 yards but was intercepted twice.
Following tonight's home game against Albert Gallatin the Trojans will take to the road again Sept. 29 at conference foe Uniontown.
Derry Area 3 7 0 0 -- 10
Laurel Highlands 0 0 3 10 -- 13
DA-Dakota Rhodes 24 yd field goal
DA-Zack Matusak 14 yard pass from Scott Yeckley (Rhodes kick)
LH-Alex Russell 29 yard field goal
LH- Randy Rankin 4 yard pass from Dan Pegg ( Russell kick)
LH-Alex Russell 24 yard field goal
RUSHING: DA- Hemminger 18-63, Harr 4-8; Connolly 1-2; Pritts 2-(-2); Yeckley 6-(-14) LH- Pegg 6-22; Work 3-5; George 5-(-3).
PASSING: DA- Yeckley 4-12-2-46; LH- Pegg 14-27-1-124.
RECEIVING- DA- Hemminger 1-25; Matusak 1-14; Pritts 2-7; LH- Yarborough 4-24; M. Pegg 2-22; Lewis 1-28; Barnhart 1-1; George 1-(-3).
TEAM STATISTICS DA LH
First downs 9 8
Rushes-yards 33-85 14-24
Passing yards 46 124
Passes-int 4-12-2 14-27-1
Fumbles-lost 3-1 0-0
Penalties-yds 8-60 6-56
Total offense 131 148