Derry looks to recover from off-season injuries to running backs
Derry football coach Tim Sweeney wasn’t in a good mood back in July during the Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association seven-on-seven tournament.
He wasn’t pleased with the commitment of the team.
He also was still reeling after his top two running backs - senior Colton Nemcheck and junior Justin Huss -- suffered leg injuries during workouts the week before.
Nemcheck scored 10 touchdowns in 2017 to lead the team, and Huss scored seven times.
“I’m not sure if they’ll play this season for us,” Sweeney said. “I expect they will eventually. Both are big losses.
“This is nothing unique. Kids get hurt. This is an opportunity for someone else to get on the field and help out our team.”
Two players Sweeney will be counting on at running back are seniors Onreey Stewart and Justin Flack. Both carried the ball last season as Derry used multiple runners.
Shawn Broadway was another running back, but he graduated.
Derry is coming off an impressive two-year stretch where it went 20-3, won consecutive WPIAL Class 3A Interstate Conference titles and reached the postseason, winning a playoff game in 2016.
The Trojans return numerous starters from the 2017 squad that finished 9-2 and was tri-champion with Elizabeth Forward and South Park.
The Trojans lost to eventual WPIAL and PIAA champion Quaker Valley in the first round of the playoffs.
Headlining that returning group is senior tight end/linebacker Dom DeLuca. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound three-sport star (wrestling and volleyball) will be counted on to be a leader.
“We’ll be all right,” DeLuca said. “It’s hard to replace Colton and Justin, but we have some younger guys getting some reps, and they’ll come around. Justin (Flack) is someone who isn’t a vocal leader, but someone who has worked hard.”
Sweeney added: “Dom needs to man up and be the leader of the team. He needs to set that example for the younger guys and show them this is how we do business at Derry.”
One of the biggest tasks facing the Trojans is finding someone to replace quarterback Ryan Polinsky, who was a two-year starter. Sweeney said “Little Po” was a coach on the field.
Four players Sweeney is looking to take on the role are sophomore Paul Koontz, senior Nate Angus, Flack and sophomore Matt McDowell.
“They’re all similar-type kids,” Sweeney said. “We’re looking for someone who can craft more offense, get us in the right formations and do the things we need to do to have a field general. Replacing Little Po will be tough.”
Sweeney said the team must get better in every aspect of the game.
He doesn’t want his team to live in the past because the previous teams worked hard to achieve what they achieved.
“The offensive line needs to get better, and we’re not catching the ball well,” Sweeney said. “Defensively, we have to go back to what we did well in 2014. Some guys are resting on their laurels, and that’s upsetting.”
Coach: Tim Sweeney
2017 record: 9-2, 6-1
All-time record: 244-340-14
Date, Opponent, Time
8.24, at Latrobe, 7 p.m.
8.31, at Freeport*, 7 p.m.
9.7, South Park, 7 p.m.
9.14, at Mt. Pleasant*, 7 p.m.
9.21, CW North Catholic*, 7 p.m.
9.28, at Elizabeth Forward*, 7 p.m.
10.5, Uniontown*, 7 p.m.
10.12, at Yough*, 7 p.m.
10.19, Deer Lakes*, 7 p.m.
10.26, Burrell*, 7 p.m.
*Class 3A Big East Conference game