New coach presiding over positive offseason for Penn Hills football

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Sunday, June 26, 2022 | 11:01 AM


The excitement still hasn’t worn off for Charles Morris. Spending time working with his players on the Penn Hills football team feels right.

Morris, a 2005 Penn Hills graduate who spent time as an assistant at Gateway and Plum, is excited to take over the Indians program with his first head coaching job.

“I don’t want this to sound strange, but I feel like deep inside me I always knew I would find a way to get back,” Morris said. “I love the program and prayed I could find a way to get back. I live here and always kept an eye on what was going on in the community and wanted to help the community when I could.”

Recently, the program has had its fair share of good news as it transitions into a new era. Defensive back Raion Strader committed to play football at Miami (Ohio).

“He’s extremely competitive,” Morris said. “He’s willing to do anything in order to be better. He’s coachable and Miami of Ohio is getting a good one. He’ll probably play both sides of the ball, but he will mainly be at defensive back.”

Returning quarterback Julian Dugger has also started to pile up a number of Division I offers. This is good news for Morris, who will inherit the challenge of taking over for Jon LeDonne.

LeDonne, who left to take the job at Pine-Richland this offseason, went 46-13 in five years at Penn Hills and helped lead the Indians to the Class 5A WPIAL and PIAA titles in 2018.

Last season, the Indians shared the Northeast Conference title with Pine-Richland and North Hills. Penn Hills beat Franklin Regional and Gateway to reach the WPIAL semifinals before falling to Moon, 14-9.

Morris said he was comfortable sliding into the role.

“Honestly, I don’t see it as a challenge,” Morris said. “We just want to build our culture. I’ve always been good at building relationships and kids are kids. We just want to put the time in, be considerate of their feelings and know we have their best interests at heart.”

Being able to have Dugger at quarterback has been a blessing for Morris. What Dugger brings to the position is plenty of varsity experience after a strong sophomore season.

Dugger passed for 1,306 yards and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore. He also rushed for 651 yards. During the spring season, Dugger built up his athleticism in track, earning a bid to the PIAA Class 3A meet in the long jump.

“It’s made things easier,” Morris said. “He has confidence and it’s important to have that varsity experience. He understands the speed and strength of playing against high school kids. We are light years ahead of where I thought we would be on offense.”

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