North Hills defense stands tall in 4th quarter in win over Pine-Richland

Saturday, October 16, 2021 | 12:05 AM

A defensive football game Friday at a loud Martorelli Stadium in West View came to a fitting close Friday night.

North Hills made one last stand with Pine-Richland trying to score to win the game in the final minute, giving the Indians a 13-7 victory in the Class 5A Northeast Conference battle.

The Rams had a first-and-10 on the North Hills 12-yard line with under a minute left, but the Indians forced an incompletion, a sack when quarterback Ryan Palmieri stepped out of bounds and two more incompletions to preserve the win.

North Hills (5-3, 2-1) made another critical defensive play with about five minutes left.

On a second-and-10 from their own 19, the Rams made what looked like a big play on offense.

Palmieri, who took the snaps Friday due to an injury suffered last week by quarterback Cole Boyd, completed a 65-yard catch-and-run deep shot to Andrew Mellis, who finished with eight grabs for 118 yards, but Cooper Thompson, a junior defensive back for North Hills, punched the football free.

It fell to the ground and was recovered by senior Chase Foskey for the Indians, who held on for the victory.

“It was about effort,” North Hills coach Pat Carey said. “Give credit to our defensive coaches because we work on stripping the ball all the time and (Cooper) was doing what he’s been taught to do and it was a great play.”

After being freed, the ball nearly trickled out of bounds, but a tap by Foskey and the recovery saw the Indians take over.

“After these last couple of weeks, we needed a little luck on our side and I think we had a little bit of it tonight,” Carey said.

Pine-Richland (4-4, 2-1) started the game by taking its opening drive 80 yards in eight plays over four minutes, capping it with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Palmieri to Brad Gelly.

“We were trying to prepare Palmieri all week because we were waiting on MRI results for Boyd, but he wasn’t going to be able to play this week,” Rams coach Steve Campos said. “We were able to move the ball a bit on that drive and hit some runs in there, but after that, we got away from some things and couldn’t move the ball. When we did we shot ourselves in the foot.”

The Rams forced two punts to start North Hills’ night offensively, but Pine-Richland didn’t score again the rest of the way. The drives from there ended with two turnovers on downs, halftime, five punts, two turnovers and the end of the game.

“They’re a pretty imposing team up front, and we knew they were down some guys, so we had to get our minds wrapped around what they were trying to do,” Carey said. “It wasn’t different, though, from the last couple of weeks. It was about wrapping up and tackling better.”

After the two punts, the Indians went on their first scoring drive of the night and used five plays to travel 52 yards, finishing the drive with a 34-yard touchdown pass from John Green to Bucknell football and baseball commit Robert Dickerson.

The pass was deflected near the line of scrimmage and fell into the hands of Dickerson, who took it about 20 yards after the catch to the end zone.

The Indians then forced a punt and used more than six minutes before scoring with five seconds remaining in the second quarter to make it 13-7.

The drive went 82 yards on 12 plays and was finished by a 6-yard cutback run by Green to paydirt to give the Indians the advantage they’d win with. The point after was missed after being backed up due to a penalty.

“Our quarterback has played really well the last few weeks,” Carey said. “I think he made the difference in the first half.”

Green finished 9 for 12 for 103 yards, a touchdown and a pick. He also carried it 10 times. Liam Tracey paced the ground game with 65 yards on 15 touches for the victorious Indians.

For Pine-Richland, the injury to Boyd and the absence of lead tailback Brooks Eastburn due to illness allowed some other players to shine in a losing effort.

The Rams received a solid night from Palmieri — 17 for 26 passing for 256 yards. Palmieri threw an interception and had the touchdown pass to Gelly. Andrew Mellis caught eight balls for 118 yards while Alex Gochis caught five passes for 83 yards on the night.

The Rams will be at home for Kiski Area next week. North Hills will prepare to host Fox Chapel, whose loss to Penn Hills on Friday set up a four-way tie for first in the conference with the Foxes, Penn Hills, North Hills and the Rams all at 2-1 with two games to play.

The waters of the Northeast Conference were muddied by the strong defense at Martorelli Stadium in North Hills’ statement victory Friday, and Carey’s team knows it has a big one next week.

“I told the guys I thought we had a great week of practice before the Penn Hills game, and the way that we lost that one, we were bitter this week,” said Carey. “I’m proud of how they fought back. We’ll play a quality opponent that’s playing quality football next week and we’ll see where the chips fall.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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