Dugger brothers lead Penn Hills to win at Upper St. Clair

Friday, September 24, 2021 | 11:57 PM

After starting the season with two straight losses, Penn Hills traveled to Upper St. Clair in hopes of its second consecutive nonconference victory.

The Indians scored on three straight possessions at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half and then held on to defeat Upper St. Clair, 21-14.

The game got off to a sluggish start, at least offensively as the opening five possessions did not yield a score, but a great catch by senior wide receiver Jaden Dugger sparked the Penn Hills offense.

Backed up at its 11-yard line, Penn Hills sophomore quarterback Julian Dugger heaved a pass toward the near sideline. USC’s Mateo Cepullio had great coverage on the play and appeared to break up the pass, but Jaden Dugger kept the ball alive and grabbed it off Cepullio’s back and turned it into a catch and run of 54-yards. Amir Key capped the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run to give the Indians a 7-0 lead with 46 seconds left in the first half.

“I had to go up on the ball and try and make a play,” Jaden Dugger said. “It helped changed the momentum of the game, and we were able to score our first touchdown.”

Dugger said he did not notice the pass was still alive and just reacted to it. “I just saw the ball on his back and was just able to react and grab it.”

Penn Hills (2-2) took advantage of two Upper St. Clair (2-3) turnovers on its first two drives of the second half. Keith Condon recovered a fumble on a bad handoff exchange at the Panthers’ 35-yard line. Julian Dugger found Jaden Dugger on a post pattern on the next play in double coverage for a touchdown.

“It was just a chance to take a big shot,” Jaden Dugger said. “We tried to mix things up and come back with a counter, and they maybe weren’t expecting that.”

Condon intercepted Brady Erdos on the next Panthers possession, leading to another episode of the Dugger to Dugger show. Julian hit Jaden on a wide receiver screen in the left flat, and Jaden did the rest, making tacklers miss and staying inbounds for a 12-yard score that gave Penn Hills a 21-0 lead.

Jaden Dugger said he likes running the wide receiver screen.

“That’s a good play that we run a lot. I need to give credit to the lineman coming outside there to make a block so I could score that touchdown.”

But a Penn Hills turnover would spark Upper St. Clair.

D’Andre Coleman fumbled a punt, which was recovered by Tyson Swigart. Jamie Smith, who came in at quarterback for Upper St. Clair, found Ivory Travers open at the goal line for a 4-yard touchdown to get the Panthers on the scoreboard.

It was Smith again taking advantage of a short field for the Panthers, as he found Ethan Hiester on a middle screen on fourth down, and Hiester scampered 21 yards into the end zone from to make the score 21-14.

That score came with plenty of time left, but it was the last time Upper St. Clair would touch the football. Penn Hills started the ensuing drive at its own 20-yard line with 9:12 left. On second down, Key was stripped of the football, but teammate Raion Strader recovered at the 28-yard line. Julian Dugger converted on third down as he did several times on the drive. After Key converted a third down with a run to the Upper St. Clair 1-yard line, the Indians twice took a knee to run on the clock after a 16-play drive.

“It feels good to control the game that way,” Jaden Dugger said. “It feels even better to win the game and go home with the victory.”

Outside of the two short touchdown drives, the Penn Hills defense held Upper St. Clair in check, forcing four turnovers. Jaden Dugger had one of the Indians interceptions with a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch inside the 5-yard line.

Penn Hills heads into conference play at Pine-Richland next week to begin their Northeast Conference slate. Upper St. Clair has now dropped two straight games and will host Peters Township next week to start Allegheny Six conference play.

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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