HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Misplays doom Trinity
By Mike Kovak, Staff writer
INDIANA - Three things that propelled Trinity to a three-game win streak to end the regular season and earn a first-round date in the WPIAL Class AAA football playoffs were stout defense, strong special teams and an ability to take advantage of opportunities.
Those constants left the Hillers at the worst possible moment.
Not only did Trinity fail to stymie the triple-option offense run by Indiana Friday night, the Hillers struggled in the punt game and failed to convert red-zone chances.
It all lead to a disappointing 21-6 loss and one long bus ride home.
"We certainly had our chances to win," Trinity coach Ed Dalton said. "The way we started defensively, I thought we really had a chance. But we needed to finish that first drive. After that, we lost the field-position game."
As it had throughout the second half of the season, Trinity's defense forced an early turnover when Mike Digon intercepted a Ben Fiscus pass deep in Hillers' territory.
Thanks to three penalties by Indiana, the bracket's No. 5 seed, and a 28-yard burst from fullback Kyle McWreath, Trinity (5-5) drove inside the Indians' 5-yard-line with an opportunity to claim an early lead on the road. Three straight runs, including a fourth-and-one, by Dan Miller were stuffed.
"There are a lot of things in this game that can get momentum going and a goal-line stand is one of those things," said Indiana coach Mark Zilinskas, whose 8-2 Indians advanced to the quarterfinals against New Castle.
"We knew coming in what type of team Trinity was and how big they are. They try to jam it down your throat. Trinity has a lot of success doing that."
Not against Indiana, which picked up the 400th victory in team history and its first playoff win in at least 20 years.
Trinity never established the run game and were outrushed 227-72.
The Hillers also had difficulty with footing, and it set up the game's first score.
After the Indians' offense stalled following the goal-line stand, Trinity went for a quick kick punt on a third-and-16 from its 11. Punter Larry Woods slipped and never made contact with the football. Indiana recovered at the six and Fiscus scored two plays later.
"The quick kick hurt," Dalton said. "After that, the kids were afraid they'd slip and we just told them to quit being scared of slipping."
Indiana, behind the arm and feet of Fiscus, who accounted for 108 yards passing and 55 rushing, scored on its next possession when Fiscus again went in from 1-yard out for a 14-0 lead late in the second quarter.
Trinity quarterback Andrew Steratore, who played the best game of his varsity career, then orchestrated the Hillers' lone scoring drive. He completed passes of 47 yards to Joe Havrilak, who caught six for 112 yards, and an 11-yarder to Alex Frey to set up a four-yard Mike Preston touchdown.
At the half, despite the mistakes, Trinity trailed, 14-6.
The mistakes and missed opportunities continued to surface in the second half, however, as Trinity failed to scored. The Hillers started one drive inside Indians territory after Frey returned a kickoff 46 yards and started three other drives near midfield. One ended in a missed 34-yard field goal by Mike Cleveland and two others were stopped when Steratore, who completed 9 of 20 passes for 166 yards, threw two red-zone interceptions.
Indiana was able to grind out clock behind fullback Jay Pettina, who finished with 152 yards on 26 carries and he capped the scoring with the Indians' third one-yard scoring run of the game.
"We made some errors at inopportune times," Dalton said. "The kids played hard and I thought we did a good job on the option for the most part. When you don't get in at the one, we should have got in there. We should have capitalized and we didn't."
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