North Hills lineman works to end program’s playoff drought

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Saturday, July 22, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Jake Messina knows a thing or two about building.

A senior offensive and defensive lineman at North Hills, Messina has been around house fabrication his entire life via his family’s construction company.

As he enters his final season of high school football, he hopes that the bricks he has stacked over the past three years result in something beautiful.

“I want to make history,” said Messina. “I think we have the team to do it. We haven’t won a playoff game in over 10 years. The main goal is to make it to states and win a WPIAL championship. But I feel like it’s bound to happen and that we, as a team, have what it takes to win a championship.”

Messina has put in the work this summer to improve his game, attending camps at Pitt, Fairmont State, Wheeling University and in several other locations in the region.

“I’ve had camps almost every weekend, so it’s been pretty busy,” he said. “I love doing it though, so it’s been a great summer.”

He’s also pounded the weights, which is not exactly something new for him.

“My work ethic is my biggest strength,” Messina said. “I feel like there’s no one that can outwork me. If I lack in something, I always do what’s needed to catch up and do the best I can do. And I live in the weight room.”

The 6-foot-3 270-pounder has started to see the fruits of his labor. He has picked up offers from Mercyhurst, Cal (Pa.), Wheeling and Clarion.

“He’s really progressed through our three years,” said North Hills coach Pat Carey. “I mean, he’s had good height and athleticism, but especially as it relates to working in the weight room and putting weight on and getting bigger, faster and stronger, and just his dedication to the sport, that’s what has impressed me about Jake.”

Messina, who wants to major in business with an emphasis in architecture or home design, feels he will likely play guard or center at the next level.

“I’m more of an offensive guy,” he said. “It’s more natural.”

North Hills finished the 2022 season with a somewhat deceiving 3-8 record. A young Indians team played one of the WPIAL’s most difficult schedules, and finished 3-2 in conference play after an 0-4 start to the season.

Now with much of the starting group a year older, Messina feels that leadership will be a major force for North Hills.

“It’s a player-led team,” he said. “We have self-motivators. There’s a couple of kids on our team that just know what’s expected out of them, and I feel like it’s just more of a player-led team. We were a young team last year, and this year we have a little more experience and know what it takes.”

Messina has enjoyed the summer, getting to spend time with family and friends, while also letting the year-round grind of football training take up much of his days. And now, as he heads into his final season under the lights at Martorelli Stadium, he’s prepared for the coming months to bring a memorable finish to his high school football playing days.

“It’s definitely a sad thing,” he said. “It’s just in the (North Hills) community, you just feel the community there and it’s something that you can’t even have at the college level, the atmosphere it brings. It’s something I’m going to miss, but something I’m going to cherish. It’s going to be fun this year.”

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