By Marian Valanoski
For The Daily Item
TROY — Carmen DeFrancesco wasted little time in assessing Mount Carmel Area’s 24-15 loss to Troy in District 4 Class AA football action Friday at Alparon Park.
“Our inability to run the ball hurt us,” DeFrancesco said. “It’s hard to win a game at this time of the year if you can’t run the football.”
And with that being said the Red Tornadoes (7-4) were still in position to rally for what surely would have been a hard-earned victory. But the Trojans did not fold under pressure. Instead they rode the “big-play” performance of quarterback Jed Wright, who ran for a 65-yard touchdown with 5:09 left in the game. The score wrested away momentum the Red Tornadoes gained just seconds earlier to get within striking distance of the lead.
Troy appeared in position to pad its 18-7 lead when Brett Zosh came up and nailed Brandon Mattocks, jarring the ball loose. Dominic Farronato recovered the fumble for Mount Carmel at the one.
Zack Wasilewski went quickly to the air and connected with Treyvon White down the right sideline for a 54-yard gain to the 45 of the Trojans. The two hooked up again for a nine-yard gain to the 36 before Wasilewski found Mike Gilger for a 13-yard pickup. Four plays later on fourth down, the senior signal-caller found Farronato down the left sideline for a 22-yard pickup down to the five.
After a four-yard loss, Wasilewski spotted Tyler Thompson in the middle of the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown with 6:00 remaining. He then hooked up with Christian Kelley for the two-point conversion and suddenly Troy was clinging onto an 18-15 advantage.
Wright then proved why he was the most exciting player on the field on the ensuing series when on second-and-three from the 35, he faked a handoff into the line and dashed straight up the middle for a 65-yard touchdown that regained some breathing room for Troy at 24-15.
The Red Tornadoes got the ball back three times in the final five minutes but Troy came up with two interceptions,including one in the end zone that dashed the Red Tornadoes hopes of a comeback win.
“We were prepared for the option but give them credit for their execution,” the Red Tornadoes’ coach said. “Wright came up with some great individual plays and we could not stop him.”
Neither team produced much offense in the opening stanza although the Trojans (9-2) drove deep into Mount Carmel territory on their first possession only to be stopped at the 26 on downs. But it took a poor 10-yard punt on their next possession that gave the Red Tornadoes possession on the 18.
After a holding penalty, Christian Kelley gave the visitors their biggest gain of the half with 18 yards on a reverse to the one. On the next play Wasilewski bulled his way to paydirt for the score and Farronato’s conversion gave the Red Tornadoes a 7-0 lead.
Troy took a boatload of momentum into halftime when it recovered a muffed punt with 40 seconds on the clock. Wright moved the team down to the five where Curtis Jones bolted over from the left side for the score. However, Jacob Jones blocked the conversion attempt and the Red Tornadoes went into the half leading, 7-6.
“We hurt ourselves by not catching the football,” Francesco said.
Troy took the lead in the third quarter on an 18-yard option keep by Wright that culminated a 53-yard scoring drive. The drive was aided by a 15-yard penalty deep in Red Tornadoes territory that moved the ball to the 18.
After holding the Red Tornadoes on downs, Jones then upped the lead to 18-7 when he raced 46 yards for his second TD of the game providing Troy with an 18-7 advantage.
“We had opportunities and we came up here expecting to win,” DeFrancesco said. “We lost because the opposition played better.”
Wright led the Trojans with 170 yards rushing and Jones chipped in with 100 to help account for 270 of the Trojans 336 yards on the ground.
White caught four passes for 69 yards in a losing cause.
“We were uncharacteristically undisciplined at times and that caused some unnecessary penalties,” DeFrancesco said.