Hempfield's Spartans off to best start in a season since 1997
Kiski running back Jake Wiskerman tries to elude Hempfield's Jimmy Vaccare in the first half Friday at Hempfield.
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Rich Bowen frowned. In two decades as a head coach in the WPIAL, Bowen could never remember losing his top two halfbacks to injuries in the same game like his Hempfield team did Friday night against Kiski Area.
But Bowen was smiling a lot after the game. Hempfield's fans joined him.
Get this: Hempfield is 3-1.
Winning three of four games might not seem like reason for celebration at most places, but it hasn't happened at Hempfield since 1997. The Spartans moved to 3-1 with a big 42-21 victory against visiting Kiski Area in a WPIAL Class AAAA Foothills Conference game.
The win is another chapter in Hempfield's turnaround story under Bowen, who is in his first year at the school. This a program that came into the season with only 25 wins in the previous 12 seasons.
"We were already banged up [with injuries] coming into this game," said Bowen, who previously coached at Serra, Yough and Elizabeth Forward. "So I give our kids a lot of credit for how they played. They sucked it up and really played a great game."
Hempfield (3-1 Foothills) scored 35 points in the first half. Joe DeFloria, the team's leading rusher, injured a shoulder with nine minutes left in the second quarter and didn't play the rest of the game. He already had 42 yards rushing and 79 receiving. Then in the fourth quarter, running back Skyler Carkuff was taken off the field on a stretcher with a right leg injury. Bowen said Carkuff was taken to a hospital.
"We're just trying to see if we have enough left to play Gateway next week," said Bowen, whose team also lost two offensive linemen to injuries.
Fortunately for Hempfield, the Spartans had a big enough lead at halftime and were able to hold off Kiski Area in the second half.
Kiski Area, under first-year coach Dave Heavner, was trying to start 3-1 for the first time since 2007.
Much of the second half was played in Hempfield territory, but Kiski Area couldn't get into the end zone. Kiski Area quarterback Ricardo Carter threw an interception in the end zone and another at the Hempfield 20-yard line. Kiski Area also turned the ball over on downs, fumbling the ball on a fourth-down play.
"You have to learn from every loss," Heavner said. "What we have to learn from this is when we get inside the red zone, we have to score."
Hempfield did plenty of that in the first half, and the Spartans didn't punt once in the first two quarters.
Quarterback Ty George had 125 yards rushing and 125 passing in the first half. He scored on runs of 1, 42 and 45 yards, and once in the second half on a 2-yard run. DeFloria also scored twice on runs of 3 and 12 yards.
George finished with 125 yards rushing on 25 carries and was 7 of 14 for 146 yards passing.
Carter was excellent in the first half for Kiski Area and finished the game 11 of 18 for 162 yards. In the first half, Carter threw touchdown passes of 32 yards to Joe Brungo, 27 yards to Shane Kuhn and 37 to Donivel Evans. But Kiski Area couldn't outscore Hempfield.
"For where this program was before, to win three of four, we're excited and thrilled to be where we are," Bowen said. "What is exciting is we have a lot of kids who are stepping up and filling in [because of the injuries].
"We're like Mike Tomlin says [about the Steelers]. The expectations are the expectations and they don't change whenever we put someone else in."
First Published September 22, 2012 12:41 am