North Hills football maintains optimism despite early struggles

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Saturday, September 24, 2022 | 11:01 AM


North Hills isn’t dismayed.

The Indians, coming off their most successful season in a decade, got off to an 0-4 start to begin the 2022 season, but coach Pat Carey knew his young team may have some growing pains, and that’s helped him keep things in perspective.

“We’re playing a lot of young kids, eight or nine new kids on defense, and about seven or eight on offense,” he said. “It’s been a real learning process. We are really excited about the way our kids played the last several weeks.”

The Indians picked up their first win of the season Friday, topping No. 2 Penn Hills, 27-26, in a come-from-behind upset victory.

Plus, it’s not as if North Hills has been getting routed every Friday. With the exception of a 37-7 loss to Upper St. Clair, three of the team’s first four games were decided by 14 points or less.

“If you look at our schedule, there’s some top five teams in all of those games already,” Carey said. “We’re very happy with the way the defense has played and kept us in games.”

That defense kept Bethel Park to 22 points in a 12-point loss. It limited Gateway — then ranked No. 2. in the state — to just 20 points. North Hills lost that game, 20-17. And the Indians also lost 14-0 to Woodland Hills on Sept. 16.

“It’s been the play of the entire group, just trying to learn each other and how to communicate, get into coverages and out of coverages and those kinds of things,” Carey said. “That’s been the most impressive thing to me.”

There have, however, been clear playmakers emerging on the defensive side.

“Our linebacker, Nico Diodati, has been a leader in the middle,” Carey said. “Up front, Jake Messina has been outstanding. He had eight solo tackles against Gateway, including two tackles for loss and an interception as a defensive lineman.”

North Hills, early on, also dealt with an injury to their top player, two-way lineman Logan Greer. But he was able to return for the Woodland Hills game, providing a much needed anchor to both lines.

“He’s a big part of our team,” Carey added. “To have him back was a big plus for us.”

But as solid as the defense has been, the offense has struggled to keep up. North Hills, through four games, averaged just 8.5 points per game.

“We’ve got to find some rhythm,” Carey said. “A lot of times, we stall drives by penalties and mistakes. (Against Woodland Hills), we played out of our end the entire first half and couldn’t get out of that hole.

“But it’s finding rhythm, maintaining and staying on blocks, throwing and catching the ball. It’s just the basics that we need to improve on. And we need to catch a team that’s not highly ranked here soon and have some success.”

Carey hopes that success comes in the back half of the season, in which the team dives more deeply into Class 5A Northeast Conference play.

“We have to grind,” he said. “Our kids are buying in and have bought in. … It’s about consistency and getting these guys that have not had a lot of experience to learn and to grow.

“This conference is still wide open. … We’ll continue to strive to compete with these conference teams and see what we can do.”

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