The phrase “home cooking” wasn’t exactly what the Trinity High School football team had in mind in 2016.
With new turf and lights this year, come the hope that the change at Hiller Field will yield better results.
In Trinity’s five home games last season, all losses, the Hillers mustered slightly more than 10 points per game and surrendered an average of 32 to finish at 3-6. The home woes led to missing the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
“We had a lot of guys where it was their first time on the football field,” said head coach Jon Miller. “It showed. And it showed early.”
Without injured starting quarterback Dylan Kern in the season opener against West Mifflin, the only points Trinity scored was via a safety. The second week didn’t get much easier going against football powerhouse Thomas Jefferson, a 56-14 loss.
The lackluster performance at home last year didn’t go unnoticed by the Hillers, the conversation throughout the offseason workouts wasn’t about putting on a good show at home.
It’s about not making the WPIAL playoffs since 2012, when Trinity lost to Montour in the first round.
“It’s definitely talked about a lot,” said senior running back Joey Koroly. “We came up as freshmen and it just hasn’t happened for us yet. We talk about it every single day. We’re getting anxious about trying to do that this year.”
Koroly might be the single-most important factor in achieving that, looking to follow an impressive 2016, when he finished with 1,264 yards rushing and another 220 yards receiving.
Much of that success stemmed from him tormenting teams in Fayette County, against whom he rushed for 741 yards and scored 11 touchdowns in three games. Against Uniontown, Koroly had 242 yards rushing and two TDs. His best game of the season came against Laurel Highlands, where he rushed for 333 yards on 27 carries and scored six touchdowns.
“The offensive line did a great job blocking for me,” said Koroly, who is closing in on several school records. “My goal is to try and get to the end zone every time I touch the ball.”
Miller wants Koroly to touch the ball a lot, in the run and pass schemes, this season.
“When you have a kid like Joey, you want to make sure that you use him,” Miller said. “We also have a lot of other skill guys that will be able to keep the defense loose and take the pressure off him. Where it really starts is the offensive line. Games are won and lost by those five guys up front.”
Trinity will rely on 6-5, 300-pound offensive tackle Ben Phillis to open space for Koroly and keep senior quarterback Kern upright.
The biggest hurdle the Hillers have to overcome is playing in the balanced Class AAAA Big Nine Conference, which had Thomas Jefferson, West Mifflin, Ringgold and Belle Vernon – the four playoff teams from the conference last season – combine for only 10 losses.
Against those playoff teams, and fifth-place finisher Greensburg Salem, the Hillers were on the short end of the scoreboard. The three teams Trinity defeated – Albert Gallatin, Uniontown and Laurel Highlands – only combined for three wins.
“TJ is always going to be TJ even though it lost a couple of guys,” Miller said. “They have a standard up there and it won’t change until someone proves otherwise. We haven’t been able to do a great job finishing. It just comes down to believing in winning. It’s something you work on in the offseason and try season after season to prepare for. I don’t think that it just comes overnight.”