North Hills football team defeats Shaler in penalty-filled game

Saturday, October 19, 2019 | 12:50 AM

Fortunately for some, the standings only show wins and losses. There is no category for winning ugly.

On the other hand, North Hills’ 19-12 senior-night win Friday at home over Shaler Area could be considered a thing of beauty.

Indians coach Pat Carey was happy to get the victory, as sloppy as it may have been.

“It was an ugly game. We did a lot of good things, and so did they,” Carey said. “It’s always great to come out on top, especially for these seniors tonight.”

A long scoring drive, timely defense and clutch runs factored into the win.

After a North Hills fumble gave Shaler the ball at the Indians 35-yard line, Tommy McDonough got the ball back for North Hills when he intercepted a Darin Mizgorski pass at the 7-yard line.

The Indians took possession late in the first quarter and marched to a touchdown on a 15-play, 93-yard drive that lasted 7 minutes, 54 seconds. It was fitting senior McDonough capped the drive with a 4-yard run. The extra point was blocked, and North Hills led 6-0.

The next scoring drive for the Indians was the opposite. North Hills forced Shaler to punt from deep in its own territory after three plays.

Sam Bens went back to punt from his own end zone, but a bad snap forced him to run and he was tackled at the 2-yard line. One play later, quarterback Dylan Pawling scored. Nate Saul’s extra point gave North Hills a 13-0 lead.

“I loved them both,” Carey said of the scoring drives. “We wanted to keep the ball away. That’s a big physical team, and we were concerned about their size. We’ll certainly take the one play drive, as well.”

Pawling, who came into the game with 21 completions for the run-heavy Indians, completed 6 of 7 passes in the first half for 77 yards.

“He’s matured as a passer,” Carey said of Pawling. “He really has come into his own as a leader. In those tense moments, he has a calm presence about himself.”

Joey Impavido sparked Shaler on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Titans the ball at their 46-yard line after a 40-yard return. But the theme of the night was penalties.

North Hills committed several on the drive, which Jake Miller capped with a 2-yard run. McDonough blocked the extra point, and the Indians had a 13-6 halftime lead.

Carey called McDonough the team’s MVP.

“Tommy came up big in all areas,” Carey said. “He punted the ball well. He blocked an extra point. And then running the ball, when we get him on the perimeter, he’s one of the fastest kids in the state and that changes our offense.”

Two years ago as a sophomore, McDonough finished sixth in the state in the 200-meter dash.

The third quarter was bogged down with more penalties. Each team committed five, and the infractions negated big plays and first downs in addition to stopping several drives.

There were 25 penalties in all. Shaler was flagged 11 times for 79 yards, and North Hills committed 14 penalties for 156 yards.

“I can’t remember coaching a game with so many penalties. It was really difficult to get into a rhythm,” a frustrated Carey said. “We brought back some big runs in the second half when we had some momentum.”

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Titans put together a 60-yard scoring drive. Shaler converted a crucial fourth down, and Mizgorski hit Impavido for a 15-yard touchdown to make the score 13-12. After — what else? — another penalty, Shaler went for 2 from inside the 2-yard line. Miller ran right but was gang tackled just short of the goal line, and the Indians held on to the 1-point lead.

Mizgorski and Impavido paced Shaler on the night. The senior quarterback finished 12 of 26 passing for 142 yards and the touchdown. Impavido, a senior wideout, had nine receptions for 125 yards.

On the ensuing kickoff, Shaler tried an onside kick that was recovered by North Hills at the 44-yard line. With 2:12 remaining, McDonough converted a fourth-and-4 with a 12-yard run. Pawling scored his second touchdown of the game on a 9-yard run on the next play to make the score 19-12. Saul missed the extra point, and Shaler still had life.

Pawling has 11 rushing touchdowns on the season.

“He’s a really nifty runner. He has the ability to cut and find holes, especially down in the red zone where he has been really effective,” Carey said about his signal caller.

A personal-foul penalty against North Hills set the Titans up at the 48-yard line. The Titans drove into Indians territory, and when Mizgorski converted a fourth-and-9 with a 20-yard run, Shaler looked to be in business.

But two incompletions and two timely sacks by Alec Apodaca and Curtis Foskey resulted in a loss of 24 yards. North Hills ran out the clock for the win. The Indians had three sacks to go with one turnover.

“The last two weeks, our defense has played really well. We held their running game in check, (but) they threw the ball on us a bit. I think our kids just played tough, hard-nosed North Hills football,” Carey said.

Shaler (3-6, 2-4) still can earn a playoff spot from the Class 5A Northern Conference with a victory over Fox Chapel on the road next week.

The stakes are a little but higher for North Hills. The Indians (6-3, 5-1) already had clinched a playoff spot. But North Hills has a shot at the conference championship next week on the road, when they travel to face defending state champion No. 3 Penn Hills in a battle of Indians.

“(Penn Hills is) a physical and athletic team. They’ve grown as a team because they’re young just like us, but it’s Week 10,” Carey said. “We’re going to enjoy this one and get to work tomorrow and see if we can’t give them a game next week.”

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