Second Half Surge Propels Derry Into the Playoffs
Written by: Phil Myers on Saturday, October 28th, 2017
Derry turned a two-point half time deficit into a twenty-point triumph by scoring 22 unanswered points in the second half to down McGuffey 48-28 in a very entertaining game held at Trojan Stadium in Derry Friday night. After the teams raced up and down the field in the first two quarters, defense was the name of the game in half two. The Trojans took advantage of great field position in the second half and the only turnover of the game to put enough points on the board to secure the victory and a playoff spot in a must win situation. “The key to the game was coming out in the second half and playing with composure and poise, but emotion too,” asserted Trojan coach Tim Sweeney.
The teams combined for 519 yards, 22 first downs, and 54 points in the first 24 minutes. In the final 24 minutes of the contest, Derry and McGuffey put together only 167 yards, 10 first downs, and the 22 points by the Trojans. A big reason for the drastic difference was a result of defensive adjustments by the two coaches at the half. But, penalties in the second half were a big factor in the game and one reason McGuffey was stagnant offensively according to Highlander head coach Ed Dalton, “We had two big runs of 54 and 60 yards called back. Those are huge momentum busters.”
McGuffey received the opening kick and returned it to the 27. From there they threw together an eight play 73-yard scoring drive. Christian Clutter produced on runs of 7 and 6 yards to give his team a first down to open the possession. Then Adam Townsend hit a quick opener up the gut for 39 and a first down at the Trojan twenty-one. On a third and one QB Marshall Whipkey gained three giving the Highlanders a first and goal at the nine. From there, it took Clutter two runs, one for five and the final for four yards to score. With Gavin Beatty’s point after McGuffey led 7-0 stunning the home crowd at the 8:33 mark of the first.
Derry’s 6’4” Jason Geary grabbed the high hop on a subsequent on sides kick by McGuffey at the Trojan 43. Three plays netted 8 only yards for the Derrymen. Faced with a fourth and two at the Highlander 49, Coach Sweeney rolled the dice. He put Justin Flack in at Wildcat which may have confused McGuffey. Flack faked a sweep left handoff and kept the pigskin rolling right and went untouched down the sideline 49 yards to pay dirt much to the delight of the Derry faithful. The PAT was apparently blocked by Marko Oliverez, so at the 7:31 mark of the first McGuffey still led 7-6.
Derry Area forced a rare three and out for this night and took over at midfield. On third and nine, QB Ryan Polinsky over threw his intended receiver, but McGuffey was whistled for targeting giving the Trojans a first down. A couple of runs by Shawn Broadway gained 12 yards and a pass to Justin Huss gained 18 to put the ball at the visitor’s four-yard line. Quickly Derry got to the line of scrimmage and Broadway took a direct snap and scampered the final four yards for the score. Will Huss booted the extra point and Derry had its first lead 13-7 with 3:01 left in the opening quarter.
The second quarter got a little crazy with the teams scoring five touchdowns and a field goal. McGuffey began the second stanza scoring spree by driving 79 yards in eleven plays. Brenden Crowe’s 32-yard jaunt and Whipkey’s 23-yard pass to Dalton Lough were the highlights for the Highlanders. Whipkey finished off the possession with a quarterback sneak from a yard out to tie the game. Max Malis of Derry tipped the PAT enough that the ball hit the cross bar to keep the score at 13 apiece.
The Trojans answered by traversing 70 yards in nine plays. Polinsky connected again with Justin Huss for 18 yards two plays before Broadway scored his second touchdown, this time on a 25-yard dash. With Derry up 20-13 and 7:18 showing on the clock, McGuffey’s Townsend returned the kickoff 77 yards to the Trojan three. Clutter scored his second touchdown on the next play to pull his team to within one, 20-19. But, the extra point try was blocked again, this time by Broadway.
The Highlander defense with the help of a penalty held the home team on downs at the McGuffey 37 on Derry’s next possession. Crowe ran for 19 and then caught a 41-yard pass to put the rock at the Derry three once more. On third down Clutter scored his third TD to send the visitors back into the lead 25-20 with 2:04 remaining. A two-point conversion attempt failed when Whipkey’s pass was knocked down at the line by Jeff Perratone.
It took the blue and yellow clad Derrymen two plays to respond. A 34-yard pass to J. Huss put the ball at the McGuffey 30 and then Polinsky threw the ball a little high to Broadway, but Shawn nabbed it with one hand out in the flat, got a block and was off to the races for his third consecutive TD. Dylan McCrerey blocked the point after and Derry led 26-25 with a buck thirty-eight left in the half. A couple penalties for kicking the ball out of bounds bit Derry when the eventual return gave McGuffey the ball at the 49. A 15-yard pass to Lough and a 15-yard penalty put the highlanders in position for Beatty to attempt a 29-yard field goal. And his aim was true, connecting with plenty of leg to send the white, navy blue and gold visitors into the locker room with a 28-26 lead.
“We rushed the ball well and our M.O. is to run, we’re not going to kid anybody,” stated Derry coach Sweeney. Run they did the second half only throwing three passes. But what really aided the Trojans was their starting field position in the third and fourth quarters was from the McGuffey 35, 19, 35, 45, and 15 yard lines. In other words, Derry never had to go more than 45 yards to score.
Broadway opened the second half with a 54-yard kickoff return to the Highlander 35. It took nine plays, eight of them runs, but the Trojans took the lead for good when Flack, returning from a first half injury, carried the agate four yards to put Derry up 32-28 at the 7:48 mark of the third. Polinsky then rolled right, stopped and threw back to his left finding Justin Huss open for the two-point conversion moving the lead to 34-28.
The big play of the game came on McGuffey’s first possession. Dom DeLuca stepped in front of a Whipkey screen pass at the Highlander 30 and returned it to the 19 sending the home crowd into delirium. Onreey Stewart capped the short drive by going the final four for the score. Now with 4:02 remaining in the third Derry led 41-28. McGuffey started to move the ball on its next drive, but a penalty after a long run did them in and they turned the ball over on downs at their 35.
Because the Highlanders got behind and couldn’t stop Derry’s offense, they were forced to pass a little more and go for it on fourth down in the second half which played right into Derry’s hand. The Trojans recorded five sacks in the game with four coming in half two and the final one came on fourth down giving them the ball at the McGuffey 15 late in the last quarter. That culminated in the final score of the night with 41 ticks left on the game clock. Polinsky called his number from the one and Will Huss’s PAT set the final at 48-28 sending Derry into the playoffs and a three-way tie for first place in the 3A Interstate Conference.
Game Notes: Derry was without possibly their best two-way player in Colton Nemcheck who had suffered a concussion. He hopes to be available for the playoffs beginning next week. Derry was led by Broadway’s 117 yards rushing on 16 carries. Polinsky was 6 of 11 for 122 yards and a TD. Justin Huss caught four of those passes for 78 yards. Derry had 238 yards rushing and 122 passing for a total of 360 yards for the game. Even though Derry was 8-1, they had to win this game to make the playoffs.
McGuffey, who finished the season 6-4, was led on the ground by Clutter’s 68 yards. Whipkey was 9 of 16 for 145 yards and one pick. The Highlanders gained 326 yards, 145 passing and 181 rushing. But a telling statistic was that until the final possession with 41 seconds left when they drove 80 yards to the Derry five when time ran out, McGuffey had zero net yards in the entire second half after having 246 in the first half.
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