Penn Hills coaches try to keep focus on football for players

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Sunday, September 19, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Penn Hills football coach Jon LeDonne and his coaching staff worked hard prepping to play Woodland Hills on Sept. 17 at home.

The Indians coaching staff also were tasked with keeping the players focused despite recent events in the community. No fans were allowed in Yuhas-McGinley Stadium last Friday and security was increased about “unresolved feelings and emotions” after 15-year-old Steven Eason of Wilkinsburg, a student at Central Catholic, was killed and an unidentified Penn Hills student was critically wounded Sept. 11 at a North Versailles haunted hayride.

“We talk about keeping things in-house,” LeDonne said. “We spent the week talking about family and making the right decisions. They are doing a great job of focusing in and avoiding the outside.”

The decision to hold the game with no fans was made Sept. 15 and was announced via a letter written by Penn Hills superintendent Nancy J. Hines.

“We believe restricting those allowed onsite to football players, coaches and essential event staff only is prudent given recent events that have affected many youth in the Pittsburgh area,” Hines wrote.

On the field, the Indians (0-2) are looking to get right following two tough losses to former section rivals Central Catholic and Gateway.

Penn Hills, which won’t play its first Northeast Conference game until Oct. 1 at Pine-Richland, opted to have another scrimmage in the preseason instead of playing a Week Zero game.

“We made a lot of mental mistakes,” LeDonne said. “We are still a young team as far as varsity football experience goes. We are still correcting things on film. We want to get more mature with decisions and executing.”

Penn Hills’ offense still is looking to find its groove, only producing 20 points in their first two games. Julian Dugger leads the team with 209 passing yards and has thrown a touchdown pass. Chase Barney leads the team with 77 receiving yards, and Amir Key has a team-high 68 rushing yards.

LeDonne believes his players will find a way to navigate their way out of a difficult nonconference stretch to start the season.

“We want to see improvement,” LeDonne said. “We went back to the basics this week. We are focusing on us and what we need to do. We shortened the playbook on both sides of the ball. We want to get good at one thing before we start to progress to other things.”

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