North Hills football easily dispatches Plum

Friday, September 3, 2021 | 10:37 PM

Robert Dickerson stood outside of his locker room, popped a couple of Hot Tamales candies in his mouth and just kept on smiling.

And why not? He doesn’t mind bringing the heat.

Dickerson, North Hills’ standout senior receiver, was bottled up on offense all night but pulled off a pair of impressive special teams returns that ignited the Indians (2-0) to a 49-17 victory over Plum on Friday night at Martorelli Stadium.

“My dad put me onto these Hot Tamales,” Dickerson said. “Hey, they can sponsor me now.”

The game didn’t start so spicy for Dickerson, also a star baseball player with collegiate offers in both sports. On the game’s second play, he took a handoff, backtracked 23 yards, fumbled and set up Plum in great field position.

The Mustangs got a 37-yard field goal from Vincent Febbraro.

Dickerson quickly made amends, returning the ensuing kickoff 72 yards to the Mustangs’ 9.

Liam Tracey scored two plays later, and the Indians never trailed again, much to the delight of the packed North Hills’ side of their home stadium.

“That feeling’s not like anything else,” Tracey said of the atmosphere. “The student section, everybody, the community all comes out. It makes you feel great, especially when we win.”

The ensuing kickoff was pooched and recovered by North Hills in Plum territory. Tracey scampered his way into the end zone for a 25-yard score. The scores came 47 seconds apart.

“It set the tone for the game,” North Hills coach Pat Carey said of the early special teams gems.

The Indians rapidly piled on, scoring on a 37-yard pass from John Green to Cooper Thompson.

Dickerson then made his best play of the night, fielding a punt and weaving up the left sideline for a 54-yard touchdown, pushing the Indians’ lead to 28-3.

“I just saw an open field,” Dickerson said. “I had to make a couple guys miss, but I trust that my guys are going to block for me.”

“We have to take care of special teams,” Plum coach Matt Morgan said. “It’s the third phase of the game, and you’ve got to approach it like it’s your offense or your defense.”

Plum did show some life, albeit briefly. The Mustangs (0-2) mounted a six-play scoring drive, with Nick Odom rushing for a score to make it 28-10 with 1 minute, 10 seconds left in the first half.

That lasted all of 32 seconds.

Green orchestrated another quick scoring drive, connecting with Chase Foskey for a 46-yard touchdown to push the North Hills advantage to 35-10 at half.

“Same thing happened to us last week,” said Morgan, whose team was looking to bounce back from a 41-12 loss at Franklin Regional in Week Zero. “We answer something, and they give it right back to us. We’ve got to get past that.”

“We wanted to score points there,” Carey added. “It was still the first half, and we wanted to move the ball there. These early games are about experience, and John Green handled himself well there.”

After halftime, Foskey scored on a 1-yard run, and Tracey found a seam for his third touchdown, a 45-yarder that made it 42-10.

“I’m just thankful for my line,” said Tracey, who ran for 111 yards and now has rushed for 249 yards and five touchdowns in the first two weeks. “They opened the holes, and I hit the holes hard. The rest just happened by itself.”

Green completed 5 of 7 passes for 99 yards, all in the first half. Dickerson touched the ball only once on offense — the fumble — but wasn’t really needed.

“When you take (him) away from us, we have the stuff up inside,” Carey said. “It depends what the other team wants to do, and that was their choice.”

Plum, which got a late touchdown from Odom, was dealt what could be a serious blow as star tailback Eryck Moore left the game in the second quarter with a concussion.

“It was kind of a late hit on the ball and ended up being a helmet to helmet,” Morgan said. “Hopefully, he can recover fairly fast.”

Santino Saccone and Sean Franzi split time under center for the reigning Class 4A Greater Allegheny champion Mustangs. Saccone passed for 88 yards, Franzi for 52. Sa’Mo Pitts caught five passes for 89 yards.

“Our kids have to grow up, and grow up fast,” Morgan said.

North Hills has outscored its first two opponents, Mars and Plum, 86-17, and welcomes Class 6A Seneca Valley next Friday.

“We want Seneca, yeah,” Dickerson said before popping another candy.

“We’re excited about where we’re going, but the schedule will continue to get more difficult as we move on here,” Carey explained. “We’ll be tested over the next few weeks and will find out a little bit more about ourselves.”

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