The Hollidaysburg Area High School football team learned a harsh lesson last week.
The Tigers had visiting Knoch down by 10 at halftime but couldn't administer the knockout punch. The Knights came back, and Hollidaysburg was unable to punch in the go-ahead touchdown late, dropping a Greater Allegheny Conference game in which it head almost as much yardage as its opponent, won the turnover battle and committed fewer penalties.
"Obviously, it was a very difficult weekend for everybody involved, not just the players but the coaches and community," Hollidaysburg coach Homer DeLattre said. "It was a very tough loss. It's something we can learn from and get better from."
Just what impact that loss had on Hollidaysburg will be put on display Friday night when the Golden Tigers take a 1-3 record to Derry to meet the 0-4 Trojans in a Greater Allegheny clash. Kickoff at Derry Stadium is slated for 7 p.m.
Hollidaysburg is 1-2 in the section and really needs to win this one to sustain its hopes of making the playoffs with Greater Allegheny juggernauts Mars and Franklin Regional looming on the schedule on October. Derry has dropped all three of its section games.
Minus a couple of starters for non-football reasons, Hollidaysburg still led Knoch most of the way and ended up holding the Knights to 221 yards. After Knoch went ahead in the second half on a pair of defensive scores and a touchdown run, Hollidaysburg had a chance to regain the advantage in the last 5 minutes.
Game: Hollidaysburg (1-3) vs. Derry (0-4)
Where: Derry Stadium, Derry
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
The coaches: Hollidaysburg - Homer DeLattre (53-67, 12th year); Derry - Al Gaiardo (2-29, fourth year)
Series record: Hollidaysburg, 3-0 (first met in 2010)
Last meeting: Hollidaysburg, 49-16 (Sept. 28, 2012)
The Tigers were turned away four times from the Knoch 1, though, and left the field disappointed. Although Hollidaysburg played those four downs without starting linemen Reid Brinkhoff and Aaron Gallagher (cramping), DeLattre felt the way things played out should send a strong message to the Tigers moving forward.
That is that no matter what happens, no matter how the game is going, top teams find ways to win, even if they are being outplayed.
"We're all on a learning curve here. That's no excuse. We all have to get better here at communicating and developing to be a better team," DeLattre said. "Knoch's a great football program. I think they've been in the playoffs eight of the last nine years. They advanced to the [WPIAL] final, and we were right there with them. We can compete with these teams. That's one thing we learned. But that's where we want our program to be. We want our program to be one of the top in District 7 triple-A."
As the Tigers start to try to reach that destination, they face a Derry team that clearly is not there right now. The Trojans' closest game so far was last week when they lost to Indiana by 50 points.
"We just haven't played consistently over the course of an entire game," Derry coach Al Gaiardo said. "We played an extremely good first quarter and a half against Indiana, but we just went downhill after that. We need to be more physical up front, and we need to tackle better. If we do that, we'll be OK. We'll be a half-decent football team."
Derry outgained Indiana 130-8 in the opening quarter last week, although it trailed 7-0 after 12 minutes. The Trojans wound up being outgained by a 454-259 count and committing three turnovers - two interceptions were returned for touchdowns.
In his first start as Derry's quarterback, sophomore Troy Friedline completed 18 of 33 passes for 165 yards. Jaymie Howe and Clint Beeman are the Trojans' top two receivers with 13 and 10 catches, respectively, but Derry only averages about 53 rushing yards per game.
"They have an option attack. We've been doing a pretty good job of stopping the run. They mix the run and the pass well, and some of the teams we've played haven't put themselves in that situation," DeLattre said. "They pass more than they run it, and that's even before they get down. That poses some problems. You have to be more disciplined and able to play in space more."
Filling in at quarterback for Josh Bickley, Caleb Parnell rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown last week, but the Tigers would like to get Reid Miller going - he's been held to 3 yards over the last two games after rushing for more than 100 against Greensburg Salem.
Tiger wideout Ryan Waltz has 13 catches for 315 yards.
Hollidaysburg will again be without Bickley and Brinkhoff and running back Jericho Hilling was an injury question mark entering the week, but DeLattre thinks the Tigers got last week's message loud and clear.
"We had a good team meeting on Monday," DeLattre said. "We had a good practice Monday afternoon after we watched the video and kind of put closure to it. I think we'll be prepared for Derry."