Tigers set for stiff test

Coaches in all sports often tell their players to “practice like you play,” but first-year Hollidaysburg Area High School football coach Homer DeLattre would be happy to get his players to play as they practice.

“We’re just sort of inconsistent right now in what we’re doing. We’re not doing some of the things we do well in practice when it comes to game time. We seem to have a difficult time executing,” DeLattre said.

“If they can just take the drills we’re doing in practice and apply them to the game, I know we’ll be consistent with all phases.”

DeLattre’s Golden Tigers will be put to the test again tonight as they try to shrug off last week’s season-opening loss to Highlands when they travel to 1-0 Greensburg Salem. Kickoff for the WPIAL Greater Allegheny Conference matchup is at 7 p.m.

“They play basic smash-mouth football,” DeLattre said of the Golden Lions. “They say we’re going to run the ball on you, and we’re going to stop your run game.”

But, before DeLattre can be overly concerned with Greensburg Salem, his first priority is fixing his own team’s issues. They were numerous is the opener.

The Tigers allowed 270 yards on the ground and were held to negative-13. Highlands also passed for 145 yards and two touchdowns, and the Tigers, who trailed 16-0 at the half, found themselves on the short end of the turnovers by a 2-1 count, as well.

Of course, this had a strong possibility to occur with a new coach and a young team. DeLattre was not panicking. He thinks it’s simply a matter of his players getting comfortable and confident in what they are being asked to do.

“I’m sure it’s frustrating for the kids. They know they can do it. Some of it has to come from them internally, as well. They’ve got to make an effort to get better,” DeLattre said. “We’re confident it’s going to come. It’s just taking time.”

It might just be as simple as nerves for a number of first-time varsity players.

“We show them. It’s missed assignments. They don’t miss these assignments in practice. But then Friday, we had guys doing things entirely that they weren’t supposed to be doing,” DeLattre said. “Defensively, we don’t want them thinking. We want them to fly around and play. We think they are overanalyzing what they should be doing.”

The one statistical bright spot against Highlands was Josh Bickley’s 5-for-7, 181-yard, two-touchdown passing performance off the bench. DeLattre, though, had Bickley and week-one starter Caleb Parnell neck-and-neck vying to open tonight’s game.

“I don’t think either guy has stepped to the forefront. Bickley had two nice throws, but I don’t know if it’s enough. Consistency is what we’re looking for, and we’re looking for leadership there,” DeLattre said. “We’re going to let them compete and see if they can make each other better.”

Greensburg Salem is coming off a 20-14 win over Knoch in which it jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and held on. The Lions, who were 2-7 last year, are being guided by first-year coach Dave Keefer, a longtime assistant coach in the program.

“We have the ability to be a good football. We had the ability to be a good football team in the past, but we missed on some opportunities. Friday, we executed early. We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to later on, and it showed,” Keefer said. “I think some teams know we have some ability. It’s just a matter of putting it together. We’re really happy with the win.”

The Lions rolled up almost 200 yards in total offense in the first two quarters. Dom McKinley rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, while Ryan Zepeda reached the end zone on a 32-yard run. Adam Indof threw just eight times but completed passes covering 120 yards, including a 59-yard scoring strike to Simeon Stevens.

DeLattre thinks the pressure will be on his defensive front seven of Reid Brinkhoff, Andrew Vonada, Zach Simpson, Michael Roberts, Greg Dinges, Colton Ruggery and Zack Weaver, as well as his offensive line of Brinkhoff, Simpson, Vonada, Aaron Gallagher and Andrew Rubritz.

“There’s going to be a great battle on the offensive and defensive lines,” DeLattre said.