By Dan Scifo, Latrobe Bulletin
LOWER BURRELL — Derry Area’s single-game school rushing record stood for almost six decades until Justin Huss broke the mark last week in a big win against Deer Lakes.
It lasted just one week this time.
Huss shattered his own school record, rushing for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns during Derry Area’s 56-32 rout of host Burrell in the Trojans’ regular-season WPIAL Class 3A Big East Conference finale Friday.
“It feels good, but it’s not just me,” Huss said. “It’s the whole offense who gets that record because it’s not just one guy carrying the ball who gets the job done. It’s the whole offensive line and everyone who’s blocking.”
The Trojans (7-1, 8-2) entered Friday’s regular-season finale assured of a fourth straight trip to the postseason and a third home playoff game in four years. But Huss and the Trojans refused to take the night off against a Burrell team fighting for its playoff lives.
“We knew coming in that Burrell had a good offense,” Huss said. “We were going to try to stop them from putting up points, but our offense really stepped up and started scoring, so we were grateful for that.”
Huss was the catalyst.
He ended the game with a new school record of 402 yards and scored five touchdowns along the way. Last Friday at Deer Lakes, Huss shattered a previous longstanding record with a new program single-game mark of 304 rushing yards on just 10 first-half carries.
“It’s such a silly amount of yards,” Derry Area coach Tim Sweeney said. “What can you say? He gets it done…400 yards is unheard of.”
Denny Molchan held the previous record of 273 yards, a 59-year-old mark set against Mount Pleasant Ramsay in 1960. Huss needed one week and 28 touches to eclipse the 400-yard rushing mark and break his own school record by almost 100 yards.
“I guess records are made to be broken,” Sweeney said. “Not too many guys have an opportunity to break their own record, let alone to do it in a week. The credit is to Huss and his offensive line. Our offense was prepared.”
Tyler Balega led the Trojans through a magical 2016 season with 1,715 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns in 11 games. Huss, who entered Friday’s game No. 3 in the WPIAL in rushing and fourth in the district in scoring, is up to 1,803 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns in nine games this season.
Huss has 1,721 yards and all 28 touchdowns in his last eight games, an average of 215 yards and a little more than three touchdowns per game. Huss has 706 yards and 10 touchdowns during his last two record-breaking weeks.
“If you talk with Huss, he’ll probably be the first one to give credit to his offensive line, but that’s what you get with him,” Sweeney said. “If he gets a crease, or in some cases a gaping hole, he can take it to the house from anywhere.”
Huss proved it on Friday, spearheading the Trojans’ rushing attack with his 400-yard effort.
But it wasn’t just Huss on the ground for the high-powered Trojans. Derry Area carried 57 times for 555 yards and eight rushing touchdowns. Mike Kelly rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown, Matt McDowell had 47 yards and a score and quarterback Paul Koontz also reached the endzone.
“It’s nice to see not just mine, but the whole team’s hard work throughout the summer and off-season paying off,” Huss said.
That hard work has taken the Trojans back to the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs.
Derry Area has won 39 of its last 46 games, including 28 of the previous 34 and five straight, currently. The Trojans have made four consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in school history, continuing the record three-year run from last season. Last week, the Trojans clinched second place in the conference, guaranteeing a home playoff game at Derry Stadium next Friday. DA has won 24 of its last 25 home games.
The Trojans were unable to win at least a share of a school record fourth straight conference title as North Catholic (8-0, 8-1) defeated Deer Lakes on Friday to clinch the championship outright.
“Congrats to North Catholic for winning our conference,” Sweeney said. “We had the opportunity to go there and beat them, and we didn’t, so we’ll take what we get with the draw on Monday. We’re going to enjoy this win. I think we’re a little dinged up right now, so we have to get healthy.”
The teams combined for 88 points, including 62 in the first half. Derry Area had 341 yards rushing at halftime, including 286 from Huss.
Derry Area scored on its first six possessions, and had a chance to score on its seventh, but an interception ended the half.
“We came out firing on all cylinders,” Sweeney said. “Their offense scored too many points for what we like to do on defense, but they didn’t do anything that we weren’t prepared for. Give them credit for executing.”
Huss staked Derry Area out to an early 14-0 lead. He capped a six-play series with a 17-yard run and broke free for a 55-yard touchdown on Derry Area’s next drive.
Burrell had just minus-three yards on its first two drives, but found a groove on its third possession. Zach Miller caught a 16-yard pass from Alex Arledge to make it a 14-7 game.
The Trojans scored two more touchdowns, making it 28-7 early in the second quarter. Kelly closed the series with a 42-yard run on an inside handoff, while a Koontz 10-yard scramble followed Huss’s 15-yard run following a series in which Burrell turned the ball over on downs.
“Our offense has been playing well early in games,” Sweeney said. “Our guys bought into the game-plan.”
Burrell’s Dom Holmes capped a 10-play, 63-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown catch, but Huss made it a 35-13 game two plays later with a 65-yard run. Huss increased the lead to 42-13 on the first play of the next series with a 67-yard run.
Burrell scored the next two touchdowns to make it a two-score game, 42-26. The first score — a 66-yard hookup from Arledge to Miller — closed the first half scoring, while the second, Logan Phillips’ 24-yard touchdown catch, came after DA reached the 1-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs.
Huss effectively ended it with a 61-yard run up the middle on the next series, making it 49-26. McDowell closed the scoring for the Trojans with a five-yard run.
“Burrell is a tough team,” Huss said. “We knew we had to come out fighting because they had to win the game to make the playoffs. We knew we had to play a good game.”