Golden Tigers must get physical to succeed

Homer DeLattre is beginning his second season as head coach of the Hollidaysburg Area High School football program.

But he already has a firm grip on what it takes for a team to succeed in the rugged Greater Allegheny Conference of the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League, of which Hollidaysburg is a member.

“Our league is predominantly a physical, offensive line-dominated type of league,” DeLattre said. “We’re putting a lot of stock in our running game and in our offensive line. We know that those two areas are where we have to get it done if we’re going to be competitive in our conference.”

Franklin Regional, which hosts the Golden Tigers in a 7 p.m. kickoff this Friday in Murrysville, is one of the league’s most physical, run-oriented teams.

“They have very good people running with the football, and we’re going to have to be great tacklers and eliminate yards after contact,” said DeLattre, whose Golden Tigers were beaten, 54-7 at home by Franklin Regional a year ago. “We didn’t do that in last year’s game.”

Both Hollidaysburg’s offensive and defensive lines performed very effectively in the Golden Tigers’ season-opening 31-6 rout of Yough last Friday.

Hollidaysburg piled up 361 rushing yards behind an offensive line that includes tackles Zach Simpson and Mike Ollinger, guards Andrew Vonada and Nate Eckard and center Andy Rubritz.

Senior running back Zack Weaver led the ground game with 130 yards on nine carries and two touchdown rushes, while senior quarterback Josh Bickley ran for 88 yards on 15 carries and another touchdown.

Ten different players had at least one rushing attempt for Hollidaysburg in the season opener.

“We had three guys with 10 or more carries,” DeLattre said. “We spread the ball around.”

Hollidaysburg’s defensive front, led by tackles Simpson and Vonada and ends Michael Roberts, Noah Worley and Hunter Clair, also dominated the line of scrimmage as Yough was limited to 79 yards rushing.

“We controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” DeLattre said.

Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta is impressed with the Hollidaysburg team.

“They’re very, very big up front on both sides of the ball,” Botta said. “Defensively, they’re very aggressive with their front four guys, and offensively, they’ve got some skilled athletes who run the ball very hard. Homer (DeLattre) has done a great job with them.”

Franklin Regional opened the season with a 22-7 loss to Knoch in the season opener last Friday. The loss was compounded by the fact that Franklin Regional’s standout senior linebacker, Brett Zanotto – who has verbally committed to play collegiately at the University of Maryland – suffered a shoulder injury and is likely to sit out this week’s game.

Zanotto is also a big part of Franklin’s offensive game plan at running back.

“He’s one of the best players in our conference,” DeLattre said.

Franklin Regional is a young team that’s still negotiating its share of growing pains, according to Botta.

“Our whole offensive line is juniors, and we have a freshman starting at center,” Botta said. “As a team, we have to eliminate the big mistakes that we made in last week’s game.”

A preseason team misconduct scandal depleted Hollidaysburg’s lineup for last week’s season opener. The Mirror learned from an anonymous source that nine players whose names were on a printed roster were not on the sidelines for last Friday’s game.

“We have the same number of players on the football team for this week’s game that we had last Friday – I’ll just leave it at that,” DeLattre said when asked about the numbers available for the Franklin Regional game.

DeLattre also pointed out that he admires the leadership that the players who are available have shown in helping the Tigers negotiate some rough sledding.

“We have great leaders,” he said. “And the guys who are leaders and captains on this year’s team have done a great job. I’m real pleased with how they’ve led the team through this.”