Fake punt upsets Derry’s hopes of Uniontown upset
DERRY–Visiting Uniontown resorted to some fourth quarter trickery en route to a 19-6 Keystone Conference triumph at Derry Area last Friday night, prompting DA Coach Jim Paul to hope that better things will begin happening for his football team tonight when it journeys to Mt. Pleasant.
Needless to say, Paul was disappointed with the game’s outcome after watching his Trojans fail to capitalize on two scoring chances in the opening quarter which, for all practical purposes, could have made a big difference in the end.
“We missed some important opportunities in the beginning and failed to react to a fake punt that was costly in the fourth quarter. It was a game I thought we could have won provided that a few things would have gone differently,” said Paul.
Paul is concerned about Mt. Pleasant because the Vikings, which have been struggling in recent years, have improved, coupled with the fact that the game is on the road.
Derry got on the board first against favored Uniontown with 3:17 remaining in the first quarter when flanker Nathan Matrunick caught a 17-yard pass from quarterback Dewey Schmitt in the corner of the endzone.
Derry Area (0-2) elected to attempt a two-point conversion, but senior running back Shawn Higgs was stopped short of the goal line.
Uniontown used some ball control in order to tie the game late in the second quarter on a drive which began at its own 39-yard-line.
Highlighting the seven play drive was a 15-yard pass to Nate Klingensmith from quarterback Ryan Guthrie, which kept the long scoring drive alive.
The scoring drive ended with 2:58 remaining in the opening half when Guthrie, who alternated at quarterback with Eric Sampson, scored on a four-yard run.
Guthrie’s attempt to kick the extra point was blocked and the score was tied at 6-6 when both teams headed to their respective locker rooms at halftime.
Even more heartbreaking for Paul was watching Derry Area dominate play in the third quarter only to come up empty-handed. The Trojans set up shop at their own eight-yard-line after taking the opening kickoff of the second half.
The drive, which was highlighted by some nifty running by Higgs and a key 14-yard catch by Ben Downs, which took over six minutes off the clock, but the Trojans would not get any points for their effort.
On the 16th play of the drive Higgs attempted a 37-yard field goal which sailed wide to the left. From that point on it seemed as though all of the momentum swung over to the Red Raiders.
Uniontown (1-1) took the wind out of Derry Area’s sails for good in the final quarter when Red Raider Coach John Fortugna called for what everyone in the stadium thought was a routine punt when the Raiders were forced with a fourth down and 27 situation.
To that point the game had been a tough one for Sampson. He threw an interception in his first series and lost a fumble in the second, which led to Derry’s touchdown. Sampson was then pulled in favor of fellow senior Guthrie.
However, Sampson redeemed himself. From his upback position in punt formation, Sampson noticed that his flanker, Leroy Ingram, was uncovered. Sampson quickly called an audible, took the snap, and completed a pass to Ingram, who ran 39 yards to the Derry 42.
“It’s a call I’ve made before over the last three seasons,” Sampson said. “I saw Leroy was uncovered, and we made the play.”
The play not only kept the Uniontown drive alive and led ultimately to Nick Neretka’s 14-yard touchdown run, but it also sapped the energy from an already tired Derry defense. Uniontown kept the momentum and drove 72 yards on 14 plays during their other second half possession. That drive was capped by Guthrie’s 16-yard pass to Nate Klingensmith on fourth down.
“The fake punt turned the tide,” Derry coach Jim Paul said. “Our guys were getting tired, and that play took an emotional toll on them.”
Uniontown coach John Fortugna credited his team’s consistent effort as well.
“The punt was an important play, but our guys never quit. I think we remained fresh in the second half because we were able to platoon our players.”
For the game, Schmitt completed 7 of 13 passes for 66 yards. Shawn Higgs also added 90 yards rushing on 20 carries.
“We should’ve gotten more than one score in the first quarter,” Paul said.
Uniontown employed some more ball control tactics as it mounted a 75-yard scoring drive as the Trojan defensive unit was wearing down.
The drive ended with 1:49 remaining in the game when Klingensmith caught a 15-yard TD pass from Guthrie.
Guthrie booted the extra point to make it 19-6 and seal the win for the Red Raiders.
Although he was disappointed by the game’s final outcome Paul said he liked the intensity with which the Trojans exhibited on defense, considering the fact that Uniontown used a lot of personnel late in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve got to play better on both sides of the football against Mt. Pleasant and take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way,” Paul added.
The Trojans, who were defeated by a 35-0 score in their opener against Latrobe, finished the night with 212 yards in total offense while the Red Raiders finished with 222.
TRICKY BUSINESS–It was a pleasant evening for football as the Trojans came out sporting new home uniforms…Deken George and Bob Moore played exceptionally well for DA on defense as they came up with key sacks of Red Raider quarterback Ryan Guthrie…Because of heavy rain in recent weeks the playing field was a bit soggy and became torn up by the end of the game…The Trojans will now be on the road for three straight weeks and after tonight’s game at Mt. Pleasant will visit Highlands Sept. 19 and will then travel to Belle Vernon Sept. 26. They will return home Oct. 3 to face Laurel Highlands, which will be homecoming…Prior to the game special recognition was given to Derry Area Midget Football Association players, cheerleaders and coaches…The fence surrounding the track and playing surface was decorated with signs by students. The Trojan marching band performed prior to the start of the game.