Long 1st-half drive sparks North Hills to win over Fox Chapel

Friday, October 22, 2021 | 10:38 PM

After neither team could get things going offensively against stout defensive play in the first half, North Hills took over in the middle of the second quarter with the worst field position for either team at its own 10-yard line.

The drive that followed sparked the Indians to a 17-10 victory Friday night that was sealed by big defensive plays down the stretch for the second straight week.

The Indians marched 90 yards in 4 minutes, 10 seconds and used 13 plays to put the ball in the end zone, finding a score that launched them ahead for good in a big Class 5A Northeast Conference battle at Martorelli Stadium.

John Green’s 10-yard touchdown run was the first of three Indians scores.

The win moves the Indians to 6-3 overall and 3-1 in Northeast play, while the defeat sets Fox Chapel back to 4-5 overall and 2-2 in the conference with one week left.

“The first half was back and forth a little bit, and we had the drive to punch it in there before halftime,” North Hills coach Pat Carey said. “We outgained them, we outrushed them, but we didn’t put a lot of points up. I think at times we were a little bit undisciplined and we have to eliminate those.”

Green’s run with 5 seconds left in the half was answered in a small way to start the second half when Maurice Sampson-Schulter’s return of the opening kick to midfield set up Fox Chapel for success. After a long pass, the Foxes seemed poised to tie the score but had to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Cooper Smith that made it 7-3.

“We played well in the first half. I thought we had a couple opportunities offensively that got away from us and then we get into the two minute and lost some lanes, and they made some plays. As well as we played, it was for naught,” Foxes coach Tom Loughran said. “We had chances on that first drive of the half, too, but didn’t get what we wanted. We were just a little behind the whole game. We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.”

The Indians were able to answer the field goal, going 85 yards in seven plays, capped by a 6-yard run by Alec Apodaca, who toted it eight times, all in the second half, for 70 yards. The drive included a big run of 37 yards by Liam Tracey, who totaled 181 yards on 23 carries.

“We saw some things at halftime that we wanted to adjust to. We blocked them up front well, and they gave us problems in the first half,” Carey said. “Both those guys did a great job rushing the ball. We felt (we wore them down) a bit, but it seemed like we had enough yards to score more points in that half.”

Damon Mickail’s 29-yard field goal made it 17-3 North Hills early in the fourth before Fox Chapel scored on its next drive to make it a one-score game at 17-10. Khi Patterson caught a 15-yard pass from Collin Dietz and took it in for the touchdown.

North Hills got two interceptions: one from Green and a game-sealing one from Tanner Ilnicki with about 30 seconds to play.

Robert Dickerson, a Bucknell commit for North Hills, left the game with a leg injury late after a pass breakup. The severity is unknown. North Hills meets Shaler next week and a win would clinch at least a share of the conference title and a playoff spot. The Indians could also get in with help.

Fox Chapel will be home for Pine-Richland next week to round out the regular season. Without a postseason win since 1997, Fox Chapel will very likely need to win the game to get in but does hold a tiebreaker with Kiski Area should the teams finish tied with the same conference record.

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