Dickerson, Tracey score 2 TDs each; defense stout as North Hills blanks Mars

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Friday, August 27, 2021 | 11:39 PM


Moments after shaking hands with their opponents from Mars, the North Hills players raced over to their sideline to greet a packed and raucous student section waiting for them in the visitor’s grandstand.

“The student section and the atmosphere were crazy,” North Hills running back Liam Tracey said. “It makes it all worth it. Last year with the fans being limited (because of covid-19) it almost felt like a JV game at times. This atmosphere was so much better.”

Tracey and his Indians teammates gave their crowd plenty to cheer about.

Tracey rushed for 130 yards and two scores, and Robert Dickerson had a receiving touchdown and returned a punt for a score to help North Hills blank Mars, 37-0, in a Week Zero game Friday night at Mars Athletic Complex.

North Hills (1-0) led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. The Indians forced three turnovers and stopped Mars (0-1) deep in their territory twice to preserve the shutout.

“We have eight returning starters on defense, so that was an expectation for us. We know we have a lot of skill on offense. It’s just a matter of spreading the ball around a little bit. Our quarterback (John Green) needs to be a little better, but he’s a young guy. He’s needs to mature a bit, and I think he will.”

Tracey opened the scoring on the fifth play of the game by breaking off a 74-yard touchdown run.

“Shout out to my (offensive) line,” Tracey said. “It was all their doing. They opened the hole. I just made the cut and there was open space, and I was gone.”

Dickerson scored on a 50-yard punt return that was highlighted by a shifty move that made a Mars defender miss before taking off to the end zone. Dickerson has several NCAA Division I offers and figures to be a focal point of the Indians’ offense.

“For us it’s about getting him the ball different ways, whether its kick returns, punt returns, screens, handing him the ball or throwing it to him down field. Our offense is going to run through him, but we have enough guys that it makes it hard for defense just to worry about him.”

Tracey added another score on a 12-yard run late in the first and eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the quarter.

John Green scored just before halftime on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal.

Green, a junior, made his first varsity start at quarterback. He missed his first three throws but rebounded to complete four of his last six attempts, including a 37-yard strike to Dickerson for a touchdown that activated the mercy rule early in the third.

“(Green) just needs to slow things down a little bit, but that pass to Dickerson will, hopefully, propel him,” Carey said. “He missed some throws early, but we were able to run the ball really well.”

North Hills added a safety in the fourth quarter.

Mars debuted a new spread-style offense as opposed to its traditional wing-T. Rafael Bartley, a sophomore, made his first varsity start at quarterback, and things went well early. He completed his first six passes, and the Fightin’ Planets moved the ball into North Hills territory their first drive, but it ended on a fourth-down play when Dickerson stopped Noah Nesselroad a yard short of the line to gain.

Penalties and turnovers haunted Mars after the first drive.

“We made too many mistakes,” Mars coach Scott Heinauer said. “They have a good football team, so you can’t hand them opportunity after opportunity or you end up with a score like we had tonight. We have a young team, but that’s no excuse. We don’t except excuses. We just have to be better.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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