Tigers face high-octane offense
Scoring points wasn’t a big problem for the Hollidaysburg Area High School football team in 2013.
Stopping teams from doing the same was another story. Although the Tigers made it to the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs, they did it despite giving up 32.8 points per game, second worst in the area.
Coach Homer DeLattre knows that is going to have to change if Hollidaysburg is going to better last season’s 3-7 showing on his second year at the controls.
“It was a new system last year, obviously. I think the kids feel more comfortable with it,” DeLattre said. “We’re bigger and stronger at a lot of positions. I think we’ll be a better tackling team.”
DeLattre’s optimism will be put to the test right off the bat, when the Golden Tigers host Greater Allegheny Conference newcomer Yough on Friday night. Kickoff at Tiger Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Yough was one of the better offensive teams in the WPIAL last year, when the Cougars scored 33.5 points per game en route to a trip to the district quarterfinals while in Class AA.
“You trace them back over a number of years, and Yough’s always been a powerful offense for five, six years in a row,” DeLattre said. “It should be interesting. They’re a new opponent.”
A new opponent with a new look offensively, too. Yough graduated quarterback Tyler Donahue, who threw for more than 3,000 yards as a starter over the last three years. This year’s Cougars are running more triple-option.
That will bring the Cougars head to head with what DeLattre feels is the strength of this year’s Tiger defense: Up the middle, tackles Zach Simpson and Andrew Vonada tip the scales at a combined 358 pounds, and linebackers Colton Ruggery and Zack Weaver both are returning starters.
“Those four guys are great leaders and are in great position,” DeLattre said.
Linebacker Jericho Hilling will miss the game because of injury, but Zach Kovach was getting plenty of reps as one of four Tigers in a three-spot rotation at the position.
“They’re big up front. We have to step up up front and contain their linemen,” Yough coach Mark Crovak said. “We don’t match up with anybody size-wise. We’re small.”
Offensively, incumbent Josh Bickley fended off the camp challenge of Ryan Adams for the starting quarterback’s role. Adams still will be in the lineup as one of the Tigers’ receivers.
DeLattre said he plays to rotate a number of backs because he feels the Tigers have talent and depth at the position. They’ll be running behind a line with excellent size.
While Yough scored a ton of points last season, the Cougars allowed nearly as many. Crovak, though, welcomed back nine starters on that side of the football.
“Last year, we were more veteran on offense than we were on defense. This year, it’s the opposite,” Crovak said. “We hope that we’re able to stop the blood-letting a little bit on defense.”
In addition to Hilling’s injury, Hollidaysburg might be without several other players as a result of the alleged hazing incident involving the team which police and school authorities currently are investigating.
DeLattre, however, was hopeful the Tigers who were on the field would be able to put any of that adversity out of mind.
“We had a great scrimmage on Friday. We have great focus,” DeLattre said. “You put the distractions aside and try to focus on what’s important for two hours, and that’s the game on Friday night.”