Penn Hills basketball standout Deondre Mitchell earns starting role as 1st-year WR

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Sunday, October 18, 2020 | 11:01 AM


For the last couple of years, senior Deondre Mitchell has been known for his success on the basketball court for Penn Hills.

This fall, Mitchell added football to his resume, lining up at wide receiver for the Indians.

With no basketball fall leagues this year because of covid-19, Mitchell was looking for something to keep himself occupied. He decided to scratch the itch he had for a couple of years and join the football team in July after dropping the sport at 13 years old to focus on basketball.

“When I first came back, it was a relief. I realized how much I missed the game when I started to catch the ball again and throw it,” Mitchell said.

“Being around those guys I play with is a bond and brotherhood. The coaches and I started to warm up to each other, and now it’s a family now.”

Mitchell, who played for Penn Hills Midget Football growing up, took some time to reacclimate himself to the game of football. However, in recent weeks, coach Jon LeDonne and his coaching staff have decided to give Mitchell more reps at wide receiver and now he has found himself in the starting lineup.

“He has great hands. He’s starting to understand spacing on the field and the concepts. He has been getting a lot better at that in the last couple of weeks,” LeDonne said.

In the Week 5 game at North Hills, Mitchell hustled to recover senior Noel Roach’s fumble to keep the eventual game-winning drive alive. On the play, freshman quarterback Julian Duggar connected with Roach for a 25-yard gain before he fumbled on the third-down play with under eight minutes remaining.

Later in the drive, senior running back Derrick Topeck ran for a 31-yard touchdown run to give Penn Hills (2-3, 2-1) a 14-7 win over North Hills in Class 5A Northeast Conference play.

“He has been making crucial catches in big parts of the games to move the sticks and get first downs. He has given great effort as far as the blocking to support our run game,” LeDonne said.

Earlier in the win against North Hills, Mitchell had an opportunity to get his first touchdown after a 29-yard reception but fell short of the end zone.

Penn Hills earned its first victory of the season with a 31-13 win at home against Kiski Area on Sept. 26.

On the basketball court last season, Mitchell finished fourth in scoring as he averaged 10.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists for Penn Hills (18-6, 11-1). The Indians lost to Laurel Highlands, 62-60, in the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals and suffered a 73-63 loss to Obama Academy in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.

Whenever he stepped back on the football field, Mitchell had to learn the proper footwork, how to catch the ball properly and run with it, as well as the new plays. Mitchell will need to step up even more following the season-ending injury to senior Dontae Pollard.

“I had to get up to date on the new things I didn’t know yet. I caught up with it quickly and had to earn my keep there,” Mitchell said.

“This was a personal thing. I wanted to play just one sport so I could excel at basketball. I thought it was going to be too much for me. I can bring physicality from football with just trying to not get bumped off.”

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