Hollidaysburg hoping for another bounce back game

If there has been one thing that has marked Homer DeLattre’s first season as football coach of the Hollidaysburg Golden Tigers, it’s been the team’s ability to rebound after tough losses.

The Tigers have done it three times already. After losing the season-opener at Highlands, they went back on the road and trounced Greensburg Salem by 30 points. Then, after coming up just short of a home win against Knoch, Hollidaysburg pasted Derry by 50 and scored an impressive road win over Hampton.

Now that opportunity presents itself again, as Hollidaysburg, which had pretty much everything that could go wrong go wrong last week versus Franklin Regional, heads on the road to take on one of the other frontrunners in the WPIAL Greater Allegheny Conference, Mars.

Kickoff on Friday is slated for 7 p.m.

“This next opponent is pretty difficult to just say we’re going to come back and that kind of thing, because there’s no guarantees against an opponent that’s probably better than the one we just played,” DeLattre said. “They know that. I’m not going to lie to my kids or sugarcoat it. We just need to return to the fundamentals. That’s what really matters.

“We’ll talk about [the last game], just like the last time. But we’re going to move on. Why dwell on what just happened and ruin the opportunities that are ahead of you? Because you’re not going to get them back.”

There’s plenty of incentive to put last week’s 54-7 loss in the past for the Tigers. If they win either this week or next against Indiana, they’ll probably qualify for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs. If they win both, they definitely will. If they go 0-2, the Tigers probably won’t advance or they’ll back in as the last seed.

“We don’t really talk about records. If you prepare and you get better, all those things take care of themselves,” DeLattre said. “We could look back and say we could have beat Knoch and had this record or that record, but we’ve just got to worry about our next one. We have two games left, two opportunities left to play. If we don’t happen to win those next two opportunities, our season’s going to be over. If we win one of these last two, we have a bonus.”

Hollidaysburg will have its work cut out for it this Friday when it treks to Butler County. The Planets have run off six straight wins – none by fewer than 25 points – since a seven-point loss to Franklin Regional to kick off the season.

“They are a very well-coached team, number one. They block and tackle better than any team we’ve watched on video,” DeLattre said. “They’re solid up front. They are solid in the skill positions. They have the ability to throw the ball as well as run it with their power run game. Their fullback [Josh Schultheis] is one of the best running backs that we’ve seen. The Wing-T is a very difficult offense to defend.”

Mars is averaging more than 300 yards per game on the ground, and the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Schultheis has done most of the damage – he already has 1,104 yards and 14 touchdowns. Mars quarterback Owen Nearhoof has added 698 yards through the air although he’s only thrown 51 passes.

“Our year’s gone very well. Replacing 24 seniors from last year, I think our kids have done a great job,” Mars coach Scott Heinauer said. “We only had three kids back on one side of the ball and three on the other. We’re happy with where we are, and we’re trying to get better and better.”

Hollidaysburg has been pretty solid defending the run this season before last game, holding teams to a little more than 150 yards until Franklin Regional rolled up 377.

That’s a concern for Heinauer, as is the fact that the Tigers can come at them from a number of different ways.

“They run a wide-open offense. We haven’t seen a whole lot of spread,” Heinauer said. “Their quarterbacks are in the shotgun. They spread the ball around. They give a lot of different kids the football. They have a lot of different running backs. They keep fresh running backs in the game.”

Reid Miller leads the Tigers with 275 yards on the ground, while Josh Bickley has thrown for 616 and run for 154 although he’s shared time with Caleb Parnell and Ryan Adams.

“We need to be able to run the football,” DeLattre said when asked the keys to have a chance to beat Mars. “We have to be able to move the chains and not get ourselves in three-and-outs with short fields for our defense.”