NATRONA?HEIGHTS - It wasn't quite the debut that new Hollidaysburg coach Homer DeLattre was looking for on Friday night.
After stopping Highlands on downs twice during the first quarter, the Golden Rams connected on an 83-yard scoring pass from quarterback Blake Leri to fellow junior Elijah Jackson. That play started Highlands toward a 33-14 opening-night victory over the Golden Tigers in Greater Allegheny Conference play.
Hollidaysburg stopped Highlands at its 18 and later at the Golden Tigers 19, but couldn't sustain any momentum offensively.
"When you get a stop, you think you have some kind of momentum, and every time we got some momentum, they seemed to answer it," said DeLattre, who came to Blair County after coaching at Corry High School in Erie County for several seasons.
On the next series after the initial Highlands touchdown, Golden Rams defensive end Julian Flenory batted the ball out of Golden Tigers quarterback Caleb Parnell's hands and teammate Jordan Lineburg dove on the loose ball, giving Highlands possession at the Hollidaysburg 26.
After Jackson produced a 17-yard run, his brother, Jeremy, took a pitch left and managed to get a foot into the end zone for a second Highlands touchdown.
The Golden Rams concluded first half scoring by stopping Parnell in the end zone for a safety to make it 16-0 Highlands.
Elijah Jackson ran for 142 of his 180 yards in the second half to set up two more Highlands touchdowns.
"Any time he touches the ball, Elijah's a threat to go," said Golden Rams coach Sam Albert. "Special teams, anywhere. We call him our Reggie Bush."
Hollidaysburg might have found a passing combination, however.
DeLattre inserted Josh Bickley at quarterback in the second half, and the junior tossed scoring passes of 73 and 53 yards to fellow junior Ryan Waltz.
"We some good plays early in the first half as well, we just didn't execute, we didn't pass protect a couple of times, too," DeLattre said. "But when we execute, we can be really good."
Chad Dongell caught a 27-yard pass from Parnell to highlight Hollidaysburg's first half.
But on the ground, Highlands used six sacks to throttle the Golden Tigers rushing game.
"We had a lot of mental mistakes, offensively, and we couldn't run the football," DeLattre said. "Any time you can't run the football, and then can't stop the run, and those two things, we didn't do."
"Defensively, we live on the tradition that'll hit you," Albert said. "We gave them a couple of easy ones, but that's going to happen in the first game."
It was an emotional night at Highlands, as the school honored Ryan Richards, a projected senior wide receiver and linebacker who died in a pickup truck accident on July 13.
The Richards family has been the beneficiary of several community fundraisers over the last six weeks.
Highlands also held a moment of silence before the game for Richards and Robert Rose, a custodian who died in a job-related accident last week.
Hollidaysburg will try to get on the winning track Friday at Greensburg Salem in another 7 p.m. Class AAA conference game.
score by quarters
Hollidaysburg0 0 6 8 - 14
Highlands0 16 7 10 - 33
HIGH-E. Jackson 83 pass from Leri (Elliott kick) 10:07
HIGH-J. Jackson 9 run (Elliott kick) 8:35
HIGH-Safety: Parnell stopped in end zone 3:25
HOLL-Waltz 73 pass from Bickley (pass failed), 7:24
HIGH-Cratsenberg 2 run (Elliott kick) 4:06
HIGH-Fletcher 36 pass from Leri (Elliott kick) 8:58
HOLL-Waltz 53 pass from Bickley (Gildea pass from Bickley) 7:56
HIGH-Elliott 31 field goal 4:04
Rushing: Hollidaysburg-R. Miller 6-15, Ruggery 3-6, Dinges 1-0, Parnell 6-(-9), Bickley 3-(-25); Highlands-E. Jackson 20-180, Leri 16-42, Mazur 7-23, McKinney 2-8, Bernath 2-11, J. Jackson 3-6, Cratsenberg 1-2.
Passing: Hollidaysburg-Parnell 4-6-0-30, Bickley 5-7-1-181; Highlands-Leri 5-12-0-145.
Receiving: Hollidaysburg-Waltz 2-126, Dongell 2-27, R. Miller 2-21, Dinges 2-19, T. Miller 1-18.
First downs7 17
Total net yards198315