Penn Hills football players named to all-conference team
By: Andrew John
Thursday, December 20, 2018 | 8:09 PM
After hoisting WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A championship trophies this season, many of the contributors who led Penn Hills to its first football titles in more than two decades received individual recognition for their success on the field.
Seven Indians were selected to the first-team of the Big 56 Class 5A Northern Conference all-conference team.
All seven players were seniors — quarterback Hollis Mathis, wide receiver Dante Cephas, defensive back Daequan Hardy, running back Terry “Tank” Smith, defensive back Corey Thomas Jr., outside linebacker Jordy Boswell and center George Freeman.
“It’s a big feeling of accomplishment when you feel as though you earned the respect of other coaches in your conference. The coaches and teams you played against think of you highly enough to be an all-conference player,” Mathis said.
Mathis, a William & Marry commit, finished the season with 2,800 passing yards with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Mathis finished with 468 yards on the ground.
“It’s exciting to get the recognition because last year I wasn’t able to make first team because of (Pine-Richland grad) Phil Jurkovec. It was good to go there with the guys and have fun at the banquet. It was a cool experience to get together with all the WPIAL guys,” Mathis said.
Hardy reached the end zone four times in three different ways in the 36-31 win over Manheim Central in the PIAA Class 5A championship on Dec. 7.
“I love all the awards, but individually it really doesn’t matter. It’s all about winning. I’m just happy to go out as a state champ.”
Hardy had two receiving touchdowns, a 100-yard interception return and an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the state final. Hardy finished the season with 817 receiving yards with 22 total touchdowns.
Cephas, a Kent State commit, finished with 810 receiving yards and 16 total touchdowns.
Smith ran for 1,757 yards with 23 touchdowns.
Coach Jon LeDonne was named Steelers’ Youth Coach of the Year after leading the Indians to a 16-0 season. In his second season as head coach at Penn Hills, LeDonne led the Indians to their first WPIAL and PIAA titles since 1995.
“We knew Coach LeDonne was the best guy when we first met him. When we saw the staff he was bringing in and the philosophy he was bringing, we knew that he was a real deal type of coach. I believe it’s fitting and I’m glad we could add more hardware for him because he’s a great coach,” Mathis said.
The Indians had five players earn second-team all-conference honors, including junior wide receiver Anthony Grimes, senior Armand Gustave, senior guard Roland Phillips, junior defensive tackle Jamie Tigner and senior outside linebacker Devyn Best.
Grimes finished the season with 417 receiving yards and five TDs on 32 receptions.
Senior guard Harrison Bash, senior tackle Jayden Terry and senior tight end Ric Martin earned honorable mention honors. Senior inside linebacker Andy Plowden Jr. and junior defensive backs Dyland Bennett and Aakeem Snell also received honorable mention honors.
Martin finished with 288 receiving yards and five TDs on 20 receptions.
Andrew John is a freelance writer.
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