Penn Hills gains valuable reps during 7-on-7 tournaments

Thursday, July 18, 2019 | 7:56 PM

After winning their first PIAA football title since 1995 last season, members of the Penn Hills football program have turned the page to focus on the coming campaign.

With a young and inexperienced team, coach Jon LeDonne has been trying to find ways for his players to gain valuable experience before the season kicks off at Pine-Richland on Aug. 23.

Penn Hills hosted a seven-on-seven event July 12, welcoming teams from Norwin, West Mifflin, Clairton, Burrell, McDowell, Farrell and Johnstown.

The event included a Big Man Challenge in the Bill Fralic Athletic Center to allow the lineman to get some valuable work.

“It was great to compete against different teams. Everyone has a little different philosophy and scheme offensively and defensively. It gives you a lot of different looks,” LeDonne said.

“When you get the film, it gives you study material, especially with young quarterbacks that don’t have a lot of experience.”

The seven-on-seven events allow LeDonne and the coaching staff to evaluate the young and inexperienced players, especially those who will replace Hollis Mathis at quarterback.

Senior Eddie McKissick and sophomore Austin Jones have been battling for the starting role.

Mathis, who is now at William & Mary, finished with 2,800 yards, with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He ran for 468 yards.

Even though it’s not live action, LeDonne believes the seven-on-seven setting can be used as a learning tool for young signal-callers.

“You get to put them out there and read defenses and trying to get them to understand what defensive schemes are happening in front of them,” LeDonne said.

Earlier in the year, LeDonne developed a friendship with McDowell coach Brad Orlando when both coaches were assistants for the West team in the PSFCA East/West All-Star game in early May.

The friendship led to Orlando’s team coming to Penn Hills for the event, and LeDonne’s team reciprocating by traveling up to Erie for McDowell’s own seven-on-seven July 27.

“With all the things we do offensively, everything has to mesh well together. It’s important to get the timing down pat,” LeDonne said.

“We are trying to get the guys together with a lot of teamwork-type stuff and bonding stuff. The senior class we had last year was a close-knit group.”

LeDonne was excited to get his team out of the immediate Pittsburgh area and created a team-bonding event.

Aside from last year’s team being led by a senior class of close to 30 players, the Indians were a closeteam. LeDonne is looking to replicate the team unity with this year’s team.

After the seven-on-seven camp in Erie, LeDonne will take his team to Waldameer & Water World to blow off some steam before the team gets ready to buckle down before training camp starts in August.

“The most important thing is to count on and rely on each other,” he said. “You need to expect that the guy next to you is going to do his job. A lot of that comes from trusting each other.”


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