Just like last year, Penn Hills opens playoff run with decisive win over Latrobe

Friday, November 1, 2019 | 10:29 PM

Last season, Penn Hills defeated Latrobe in the first round the Class 5A playoffs on its way to WPIAL and PIAA titles.

This season, the No. 3 Indians started their title defense with another first-round matchup against the Wildcats. Penn Hills (10-1) had the same result as last year, defeating No. 14 Latrobe, 56-17, on Friday night at Penn Hills.

The Indians’ air attack, led by senior quarterback Eddie McKissick, made the difference. McKissick finished with 158 yards passing, four touchdowns and one interception.

McKissick connected with junior wide receiver Dontae Pollard on three touchdowns, all in the second quarter.

“I’m excited about getting it going for the playoffs. We played pretty well in all aspects of the game tonight,” Penn Hills coach Jon LeDonne said. “We started a little sluggish again, but it didn’t last as long this time. We’ve been talking about playing a full game by coming out in the first quarter and making plays.”

The Indians will move on to a quarterfinal matchup with No. 6 McKeesport (8-3) next week at a site and time to be determined.

In last year’s first-round matchup, the Indians defeated Latrobe, 55-7.

After throwing an interception on the opening drive that led to a Latrobe field goal, McKissick and the Indians offense settled down as they marched down the field on a nine-play, 71-yard drive.

McKissick threw his first touchdown pass as he found junior Noel Roach down the left side for 26 yards to give Penn Hills a 7-3 lead with over six minutes remaining in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, it became the McKissick and Pollard show. McKissick connected with Pollard on a 24-yard touchdown pass down the middle on the first play of the quarter.

After recovering a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, McKissick swung it out to Pollard for a 12-yard pass to extend the Indians’ lead to 21-3.

“He’s a playmaker, so I try hard to get the ball in his hands,” McKissick said. “When I do, he does what he did today by making big plays.”

Latrobe (5-6) had a couple chances in the red zone to narrow the deficit, but the Indians defense accepted the challenge and cause a turnover on downs on consecutive drives.

“It was frustrating because we did a couple of the things we felt like we had to do by turning them over early. We weren’t able to capitalize in the red zone,” Latrobe coach Jason Marucco said. “You have to score touchdowns against this team. When the field condenses, they are very good defensively. Their speed picks up even more on the short field.”

McKissick connected with Pollard one final time on a 83-yard touchdown pass to give Penn Hills a 28-3 lead with over a minute remaining in the first half.

The Indians defense returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns. Senior Aakeem Snell returned one 51 yards before halftime and senior Tony Grimes took another back 42 yards in the second half.

Freshman Corey Boerio, who led the Wildcats with 84 yards rushing, scored two touchdowns (2 and 61 yards) in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats were held to 173 yards of total offense and the Indians finished with 348 yards. Latrobe only had 50 yards of total offense in the first half.

“We pride ourselves on our defense the last couple of years,” LeDonne said. “We like to play fast, physical and get to the football. Sometimes your backs are against the wall and we’ve got to respond.”

Senior running back Arlon Thompson had 83 yards rushing and two second-half touchdowns on 13 carries for the Indians. Senior running back Gemar Howard got banged up in the first half and was held out for precautionary reasons.

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