Derry football coach proud of growth team showed this season
When Tim Sweeney took over the Derry football program in January, his goals for the 2014 season had nothing to do with wins and losses.
“I mentioned during the interview process and when I was hired that my main concern was the confidence and self-esteem of our players,” Sweeney said.
Through the season’s first two weeks, the Trojans made strides. But they’d been outscored 83-13 in losses to Washington and Mt. Pleasant.
“The kids worked very hard to do the things necessary to build confidence and self-esteem, but that only goes so far,” Sweeney said. “At some point, you need to get victories.”
After falling to 0-2, the Trojans posted a Week 3 home triumph over Charleroi. A road win over Laurel followed, and bolstered by a 2-2 record, the players grew closer.
“That first victory went a long way for us,” Sweeney said. “It allowed the kids to trust in each other, trust the coaching staff and trust the game plan.”
Derry went 4-6, including a 2-6 mark in Interstate Conference play. The Trojans finished seventh in the nine-team conference.
From an execution standpoint, Sweeney’s chief concern is on defense. In 2013, the Trojans surrendered an average of 56.3 points. This season, the Derry defense cut that number to 25.7.
“We need to play much better on defense,” Sweeney said. “To be a championship-caliber team, we need to get our points against down to 10-12 per game.”
Sweeney loses nearly a third of his roster to graduation, but he’s not as concerned with increasing his roster beyond the 31 players he had this season as he is with ensuring his players stick with the program.
“I know part of the way I’m judged is by the numbers,” Sweeney said. “I’m pleased with the kids who came out, but I’m more proud that we started the season with 31 players and ended the season with 31 players. I want dedicated kids to come out for the team.”
Sweeney touts the efforts of his 10 seniors for the way they handled the coaching change over the winter.
“They were put in a precarious position with a new coaching staff for their senior season,” Sweeney said. “They really bought into what we wanted to do.”
Derry’s attack was paced by junior quarterback Trey Friedline’s 910 passing yards and six touchdowns. While Friedline got the majority of playing time this season, Sweeney will hold an open competition for the position next year.
“We have three quarterbacks who understand the playbook,” said Sweeney, who also serves as the quarterbacks coach. “I was hard on Trey. He took 98 percent of the snaps this season, but he’s going to have to improve for us to be successful.”
Sweeney would like to get the program to the point where conference foes — and perennial postseason contenders — Washington and Mt. Pleasant are year after year.
“Those teams have a system in place,” Sweeney said. “They’re well-coached, and they’re reloading every year. With us, we’re reconfiguring things, not reloading.”
As the Trojans continue to get acclimated with Sweeney’s coaching style and the expectations that go along with it, they should be poised for more success.
“Now that we have a year under our belt, we have to get better at the things we do,” Sweeney said. “We need to get tougher and play with a chip on our shoulder.”
Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.