By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
NEWPORT — Upper Dauphin coach Brent Bell threw a few new wrinkles in last week against Juniata in their Tri-Valley League game, and it worked.
The Trojans got back to .500 (3-3, 2-3 TVL) as they travel to Newport on Friday to take on a Buffaloes team that just got its starting quarterback back last week.
“Our inexperienced players are starting to step up and make plays,” Bell said. “We continue to play with a lot of effort. We were down at times last week during the game and at times when Juniata was winning. We’re starting to understand that when the other teams scores, it’s not the end of the world and we struggled with that last year. We are starting to realize that we can come back and make things happen.”.
The Trojans trailed at halftime last week 28-21, but scored 22 second-half points, including 15 in the third quarter.
Junior Casey Wise drew praise from Bell as a player who had some key plays in last week’s win. Wise was injured earlier this year. Bell also noted that Payton Kennerly had a nice defensive game with multiple sacks and tackles for loss.
Quarterback Mac Ney also has one of his better games this season, according to Bell, as he rushed for more than 100 yards and did a nice job in the passing game.
“I told the kids that if they really want to make districts (UDA is No. 6 in the District 3 Class A standings and they take the top four teams), we have to treat Friday’s game like it was a championship game,” he said. “If we take care of business, that is how we will have our best shot of getting to districts.”
Newport quarterback Justin Temple returned last week from a broken foot that he sustained in a week-two scrimmage and threw for 200 yards in the first half alone.
“Justin is someone that we are going to have to deal with and that just gives them one more weapon.” Bell added. “They have a good team and they have a lot of potential. We have to take them seriously and we have to have a great game to be successful against them.”
With having Temple back, Todd Rothermel is feeling pretty good about his team and its three-game winning streak heading into Friday’s game.
“It was encouraging what Justin did coming back from the injury but we only had him throw one pass in the second half,” he said. “Justin has been with us for two summers and has 10 games under his belt and he’s groomed to be able to call the plays on the field.
He’s really worked on his passing game in the 7-on-7 drills.”
Rothermel said he’ll find out how good his team is this week against Upper Dauphin.
“Marcus (Jones) did a great job at quarterback for us considering that he had just one week to get ready to play the position,” Rothermel said. “I limited him on some things just so that we didn’t overwhelm him. Anytime you are a run-option team, you have to have the reps to be more consistent with your read.”
Newport (4-2, 3-2 TVL) lost to Upper Dauphin last year in overtime.
“We scored late in the game to force overtime and we won the toss and scored on our first possession, Rothermel said. “They scored and went for the two-point conversion and they made it. It came down to poor tackling on that play and when I took over here, we were a poor tackling team. We continue to work on that every day and if we are in that position again, and its a one-on-one deal, our kid will be in a position to make that tackle.”
Rothermel noted that the Trojans have a senior-laden offensive line and good size in the back field.
“Ney is a good quarterback who is a good ballplayer and last week against Juniata they put in some wrinkles from their fairly straightforward game plan,” he said. “They are a good football team and we have to play well offensively and defensively against them.”