Penn Hills offense answers challenge, tops North Hills

Saturday, October 26, 2019 | 12:36 AM

At halftime, Penn Hills coach Jon LeDonne challenged his offense.

The message was heard loud and clear as the Indians scored two second-half touchdowns and Penn Hills defeated North Hills, 21-7, on Friday night.

With the victory, No. 3 Penn Hills (9-1, 7-0) ran the table in the Class 5A Northern Conference, finishing first for the second straight year. North Hills (6-4, 5-2) had an opportunity to grab a share of the conference title with a win but settled for second place in the conference.

With Penn Hills leading by a touchdown with 8 minutes, 28 seconds left in the game, the Indians imposed their will with their run game.

Senior quarterback Eddie McKissick capped off an 11-play, 59-yard drive with 15-yard run down the left side to extend the Penn Hills lead to 21-7. The drive ate up over six minutes.

McKissick went 8 of 14 for 141 yards passing, rushed for 54 yards and factored in all three touchdowns — two rushing and one through the air.

“He was able to regroup,” LeDonne said. “He had a couple misreads early in the game. After halftime, the coaches got his head sound and got him prepared to make the right reads in the second half.”

Penn Hills grabbed its first lead of the game when McKissick connected with senior Tony Grimes on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 11:12 left in the game.

The drive was sparked when senior Aakeem Snell took a wide receiver screen 37 yards down to the North Hills 23-yard line right before the end of the third quarter.

Penn Hills fell behind 7-0 when North Hills senior running back Tom McDonough ran one in from 20 yards out with over four minutes to go in the first quarter.

The Penn Hills defense held the North Hills offense in check, allowing only 124 yards of total offense.

“We kept it basic with the wing-back motion,” LeDonne said. “A lot of times, guys get out of their rush lanes. We’re going to come in Monday and work on some tackling.”

Penn Hills tied the game right before halftime when McKissick took a quarterback draw 7 yards up the middle for a touchdown with 1:40 left in the first half.

On the six-play, 85-yard drive, McKissick connected with sophomore wide receiver Jaden Dugger for 37 yards on a play-action pass down the right sideline to the North Hills 22-yard line.

“It was a big drive,” McKissick said. “It motivated us for the rest of the game. It had us all pumped up to know that when we come back out, the game was 7-7. It made us come out with a lot of intensity.”

Penn Hills rushed for 144 yards as senior running back Germar Howard ran for a team-high 57 yards on 21 carries.

McDonough led North Hills with 46 yards rushing on nine attempts. Juniors Curtis Foskey and Tyler Tomasic rushed for 34 yards each.

Junior quarterback Ethan Marker started for injured senior Dylan Pawling.

“Their defense is very, very strong. We were unable to move the ball consistently. We had one good drive in the game and after that they kept us in check,” North Hills coach Pat Carey said. “It’s difficult when your defense has to play all the snaps we had to play in the second half after not keeping the ball. It wore on our defense eventually and they started to make plays in space.”

Both teams will eagerly await to find out who their next opponent will be for the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs that kick off next Friday.

Without the explosive offense from last year, Penn Hills will need to lean on its defense during the playoffs. LeDonne is pleased with how his defense is performing.

“Our defense is playing good,” he said. “Anytime you’re in the Western Pennsylvania playoffs, you need a good defense to win games.”

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