While the increased number of spectators permitted into Derry Stadium gave Friday night’s game a feeling of normalcy, the Derry Area football team struggled to settle into its normal running routine during a 34-14 loss against Freeport Area in a WPIAL Class 3A Allegheny Seven Conference matchup.
In Derry Area coach Vince Skillings’ milestone 31-7 win against Deer Lakes last Friday, Isaiah Ward and Matt McDowell combined for four touchdowns on 234 yards. On Friday, Freeport Area (2-1, 2-0) held the Trojans duo scoreless, allowing them just 118 rushing yards.
“That’s what happens when you don’t control the line of scrimmage,” Skillings said. “Anybody that knows football knows that anything you do offensively is only going to be as effective as your line. And we weren’t effective at all, and it shows in the stats and on the scoreboard.”
The Trojans fell to 1-2 in the conference and 1-2 overall.
Derry Area’s defense also struggled to contain Yellow Jackets’ quarterback Ben Lane, who threw for 249 yards on 13 of 23 passing and a touchdown. The sophomore also avoided the Trojans’ defense for 128 rushing yards, including three scores.
To stop Lane’s offensive threat, Skillings said his team just needed to “do what you are supposed to do on defense.”
“Our secondary wasn’t communicating as well as they have been in the last two games,” he said. “We were out-positioned. Some of those plays, too, we just didn’t attack the football.”
Lane capped a 33-yard drive following a Trojans’ turnover with a shifty 17-yard rush to give Freeport Area a 6-0 lead with 4:22 left in the first quarter.
Lane later drove the Yellow Jackets 45 yards, which included a 39-yard deflected pass to Cole Charlton, and scored off an 8-yard rush to put Freeport Area ahead, 13-0, with 7:57 left in the half.
“Most of those plays, their receivers made some good catches, too,” Skillings said. “They had really good hands and great concentration. I’m not going to take anything away from those guys. We were in position to make a play, but we just didn’t make the play.”
But Derry Area wasn’t going to settle, as the team rallied to take the lead during the second quarter.
The Trojans responded when Nick Detore connected with McDowell on a 29-yard touchdown pass with 2:46 left in the half.
Derry Area didn’t waste time to retake possession, as Dylan Rhodes recovered a fumble on Freeport Area’s first play of its next drive.
Detore threw his second TD pass of the game when he found Hunter Wack on a 20-yard route to give Derry Area a 14-13 lead, just 59 seconds after scoring its first touchdown.
Lane, however, punished the Trojans with two key scores, one to close the first half and another to start the second.
Freeport Area answered with 22 seconds left in the half when Lane hit Vincent Clark on a 48-yard pass to put the Yellow Jackets up 20-14.
“We told the secondary to stay deep, keep everything in front,” Skillings said. “We changed the coverage, and if we had been in the coverage that we wanted, we would have had a safety sitting right where that ball was thrown. Instead, we were in Cover-3.”
Lane wasn’t done yet.
He scored a 95-yard kickoff return to begin the second half to make it 27-14.
“A play like that is demoralizing, but we didn’t see that coming,” Skillings said. “For them to be able to run all the way across the football field and then up the sideline… I think that was kind of the nail in the coffin.”
Ward picked up an injury with nine minutes left in the third, as Freeport Area held the Trojans for the remainder of the game.
“That didn’t help any,” Skillings said of Ward’s injury. “But we weren’t blocking, we weren’t doing anything up front, so it didn’t matter anyways, whether he was in the game or not.”
Lane sealed a 19-point victory for the Yellow Jackets with a 3-yard run late in the fourth.
“We just shot ourselves in the foot (tonight),” Skillings said. “This is a heartbreaking loss right here, because we thought we had this game. We just didn’t execute.”
McDowell finished with 82 yards off seven carries. Ward rushed for 36.
Detore threw for 99 yards, completing 8 of 20 passes with two interceptions. He also rushed for 45 yards on 12 attempts.
Freeport Area outgained the Trojans 389 to 273.
“They played with more intensity,” Skillings said of the Yellow Jackets. “They just wanted it more than us. We kind of challenge (our team) now to decide which direction they want to go.”
Derry Area hosts Southmoreland (1-2, 1-2), 7 p.m. Friday, in an exhibition matchup.
The Trojans’ head coach said there were no takeaways from Friday night’s matchup with Freeport Area heading into next week’s contest.
“We didn’t play good football at all, on both sides of the football,” Skillings said. “We just have to coach them up. That’s on us — we’ll get it fixed.”
Freeport Area 34 Derry Area 14