HOLLIDAYSBURG - For the second consecutive year, Hollidaysburg's regular season ended with a loss to Indiana.
But once again, it came with a positive.
Despite Friday's 41-24 loss at Tiger Stadium and a 3-6 finish, the Golden Tigers will enter the playoffs as the fifth-place team in the Greater Allegheny Conference.
Photo for the Mirror by Tim O'Brien
The Golden Tigers’ Dan Baker catches a touchdown pass as Indiana’s Riley Stapleton defends on Friday night.
"We had plenty of opportunities, and we didn't take advantage of them," Hollidaysburg coach Homer DeLattre said. "We didn't talk in the negative this week. We talked about winning the game, and now that we didn't, we'll have to wait until Monday to find out who we could be playing."
The Golden Tigers certainly didn't get off to a good start, falling behind 14-0, as Indiana racked up 192 rushing yards in the first half alone.
But as bad as the first quarter was to Hollidaysburg, the second was the polar opposite.
Quarterback Josh Bickley, returning after a three-game absence, ran for a touchdown after an Indiana fumble and threw a 39-yard score to Dan Baker to tie the game with 5:12 to play in the half.
Eric Miller's 37-yard field goal with 2:03 left gave Hollidaysburg a 17-14 advantage going into the locker room.
"Bickley did a great job," DeLattre said. "The kids played hard. The score at the end isn't an indication of how the game was played."
Indiana's Darrious Carter, a 6-foot-5 wideout who is headed to Temple to play Division I college football, played a large role in the lopsided final score.
"Coach tells me to go out there and make a play to start it up," Carter said. "What do I do? I go out and pick the ball off and take it down to the 1 and set up a score. Players make plays. That's all I got to say."
Carter's interception lit a fire under Indiana, and the Indians outscored Hollidaysburg by 20 in the second half. The Indians finished the regular season 4-5 and fourth in the Greater Allegheny Conference.
"This is a big win for us," Zilinskas said. "It was frustrating just missing out last year. I'm real happy for our kids. It wasn't our sharpest game, but we gave Hollidaysburg a lot of opportunities and we were able to overcome all the adversity."
Zilinskas was referring to five Indiana fumbles - three of which Hollidaysburg recovered.
Indiana fumbled two consecutive Golden Tiger punts while leading 28-24 in the third quarter, but Hollidaysburg was unable to punch in a go-ahead score. Carter sacked Bickley to set up a fourth-and-17 from the Indiana 26, and Bickley's pass fell incomplete.
Earlier in the quarter, Bickley had connected with Ryan Waltz on a 38-yard touchdown on fourth down to put the Golden Tigers ahead, 24-21.
Carter responded by catching a 20-yard pass from Sean Thompson with 5:21 to play in the third quarter to put Indiana ahead for good.
"All the guys stepped up in the second half," Carter said. "We got up 14-0 in the first half and thought the game was over. It wasn't. Hollidaysburg kept coming through, but we learned we have to finish tonight."
Indiana added a 52-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to Riley Stapleton early in the fourth quarter and a 32-yard interception return for a score by Ian Scott in the final seconds.
"[Carter] took over the game," DeLattre said. "He had an interception, touchdown catch over a couple guys and made a number of big defensive plays with their backs against the wall. He's a great football player."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Indiana14 0 14 13 - 41
Hollidaysburg0 17 7 0 - 24
I-Thompson 1 run (Scott kick), 8:21.
I-Thompson 19 run (Scott kick), 3:46.
H-Bickley 1 run (E. Miller kick), 11:45.
H-Baker 39 pass from Bickley (E. Miller kick), 5:12.
H-E. Miller 37 FG, 2:03.
I-Thompson 1 run (Scott kick), 11:35.
H-Waltz 38 pass from Bickley (E. Miller kick), 10:17.
I-Carter 20 pass from Thompson (Scott kick), 5:21.
I-Stapleton 52 pass from Thompson (kick failed), 10:50.
I-Scott 32 interception return (Scott kick), 0:22.
RUSHING: Indiana-Scott 11-95, Thompson 11-87, Mi. Dietz 11-58, Casses 6-33, West 6-31, TEAM 1-(-6). Hollidaysburg-Ruggery 11-19, Hilling 2-9, Albright 1-1, Weaver 1-0, Bickley 12-(-10).
PASSING: Indiana-Thompson 15-23-0-149. Hollidaysburg-Bickley 8-13-1-139, Parnell 1-3-1-9.
RECEIVING: Indiana-Carter 5-54, Stapleton 4-74, Ma. Dietz 2-12, Scott 2-5 Casses 1-3, Mi. Dietz 1-2. Hollidaysburg-Hilling 3-35, Waltz 2-63, Baker 2-41, Diminick 1-9, Ruggery 1-0.
INTERCEPTIONS: Indiana-Carter, Scott. Hollidaysburg-none.