McKissick steps into starring role for Penn Hills football team

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Thursday, September 12, 2019 | 5:06 PM


Last year, the Penn Hills football team was led by an experienced quarterback, Hollis Mathis, on its way to winning its first state title since 1995.

If the Indians want to repeat this season, senior quarterback Eddie McKissick will have to play a key role with Mathis now at William & Mary.

Many people may prefer to be eased into a new role, but McKissick’s first career start came at Pine-Richland, the reigning PIAA Class 6A champion.

The Indians got behind early and couldn’t recover as they lost to the Rams, 21-0, in the Week Zero matchup Aug. 23.

McKissick completed 13 of 22 attempts for 152 yards and an interception.

“It was rough for me, and it had me a little shook up. But then I had to realize that’s the reason why I’m playing and doing this for. I have to step up in big moments like these,” McKissick said.

Right after the loss, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound quarterback turned the page and went to practice working harder at his craft.

McKissick shook off his nerves from the opening week and completed 10 of 14 attempts for 104 yards and three touchdowns to lead Penn Hills to a 41-14 win at Latrobe in nonconference action Aug. 30.

After being down 7-0, McKissick connected with senior wide receiver Anthony Grimes on a 13-yard touchdown pass to tie the game in the first quarter. At that moment, McKissick realized he deserved to be in the situation.

In the second quarter, McKissick threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Dontae Pollard. McKissick found senior wide receiver Dom Burden for a 25-yard touchdown pass later in the game.

“I wanted to come back out there the next week after taking that L and put on a show to make sure everybody knew that first game wasn’t going to determine our season. That was a minor setback,” McKissick said.

McKissick, who started playing football at age 7 for the McKeesport Little Tigers, threw for one touchdown and ran for two in a 33-13 win over Fox Chapel in Northern Conference action Sept. 6.

“We’re asking him to make plays both in the passing and run games. Our offense is a read-based offense,” coach Jon LeDonne said. “We’re asking him to do a lot of thinking and moving on the fly, and that’s just going to get better as we get more and more reps.”

Through the first three games, McKissick has completed 27 for 48 passes for 247 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. McKissick has rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns.

McKissick, who was Mathis’ backup the last two seasons, played wide receiver until he came to Penn Hills during his seventh-grade year. Once he started to play the quarterback position, McKissick was hooked.

“I noticed everybody’s attention was on me. I was the leader for everything. Everybody goes as I go. I realized the quarterback is one of the biggest jobs on the field,” McKissick said.

“I wanted to test myself to see if I was strong enough to handle the quarterback job.”

With his knowledge of the wide receiver position, McKissick finds it beneficial when he’s trying to make plays.

“I know where the ball needs to be put in order to make a good catch, depending on the coverage and how the cornerback is playing. I know how hard the ball needs to be thrown and what I need to do to get the receiver open,” McKissick said.

McKissick will look to lead the Indians through the Northern Conference as they work toward a WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A repeat.

“I try to not take any of the teams lightly because we don’t know what they got; just like how we have new players that need to step up, other teams can do the same thing,” McKissick said.

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