North Hills looks to rebound with toughness, speed

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018 | 9:46 PM


After putting together a run of five straight seasons with a postseason appearance, the North Hills football team missed the playoffs last year.

The Indians missed qualifying by one game following near-miss losses to Allegheny Nine Conference opponents West Allegheny, Moon and Woodland Hills.

However, there were plenty of positives to take away from the 2017 season that should carry over into this year’s crusade.

One of those positives was the Indians’ rushing attack, spearheaded by Melvin Blanks, who accrued a school record 1,480 yards rushing last year. Although Blanks graduated and moved on to college, the bulk of the offensive line that paved the way will be back to man the trenches.

Senior Lirion Murtezi, who is receiving interest from Division I football programs, returns to anchor the line alongside fellow returning senior starters Jason Biswick and Trevor Hartman. In addition, the Indians may also be receiving contributions from a sizable youngster.

“Those three are returning up front, and they’re just kids that do it the right way. They’re tough and very coachable there,” North Hills coach Pat Carey said.

“We have some other competitions going on for playing time there, but we also have an exciting young guy, Ronnie Novosedliak, and he’s about 6-7 or 6-8 and 230 pounds, and he’s had some reps up front.”

The bruisers up front for North Hills will be blocking for a new stable of running backs, led by senior playmaker Tyler Brennan. Playing mostly as a wide receiver last season, Brennan turned just eight carries into 334 yards while tallying 15 catches for 248 yards. Besides Brennan, junior Tommy McDonough and sophomore Tyler Tomasic will receive carries.

According to Carey, if there is one thing Brennan, McDonough and Tomasic all have in common, it is that they all possess serious speed.

“Tyler Brennan is extremely explosive. We’re expecting big things from him. Tommy can take some carries too, and he was a speedster by track and field standards. He was a finalist in states in the 200-meter and qualified for the 100-meter last year, so we like him as an athlete,” Carey said.

“Tyler is a young guy, but he’s going to contribute a lot on the offensive side of the ball. He’s a smaller guy that has a lot of speed and quickness, and he’s deserving of some reps.”

At quarterback, the Indians will be breaking in a new starter in Dylan Pawling. According to Carey, the junior passer is more than capable as a runner and should also help to add another dimension to his team’s rushing attack.

In addition to providing a punch to the rushing attack, Brennan will help to captain the North Hills defense at the safety position.

According to the senior two-way starter, if there was another positive that revealed itself last season, it was in the heart of his team’s defense at the linebacker position. Seniors Seamus Connolly, Joe Ryan and Brandon Manning all return there this season.

“I’d say our linebackers might be the overall strength of our team. We have a great group, they’re just close-knit guys that have grown up playing football together, and they’re really going to get a chance to be able to show what they can do,” Brennan said.

“They bring that North Hills football mentality; they play defense with an edge, and that’s how we all want to play.”

Schedule

Coach: Pat Carey

2017 record: 5-5, 4-4

All-time record: 487-297-27

Date, Opponent, Time

8.24, Butler, 7:30 p.m.

8.31, at Fox Chapel*, 7 p.m.

9.7, Kiski Area*, 7:30 p.m.

9.14, at Hampton*, 7 p.m.

9.21, Peters Township, 7:30 p.m.

9.28, at Gateway, 7 p.m.

10.5, at Mars*, 7 p.m.

10.12, Armstrong*, 7:30 p.m.

10.19, at Shaler*, 7 p.m.

10.26, Penn Hills*, 7:30 p.m.

*Class 5A Northern Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Will Hirt*

62-107, 1,085 yards, 10 TDs

Rushing: Melvin Blanks*

199-1,480 yards, 17 TDs

Receiving: Blanks*

18-283 yards

*Graduated

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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