Penn Hills players, coaches credit past teams after milestone victory
By: Andrew John
Thursday, October 11, 2018 | 11:27 PM
When the schedule came out this year, members of the Penn Hills football team circled the seventh game of the season at Hampton.
If the Indians handled their business the prior six weeks, they would have an opportunity to win the program’s 500th game.
That is exactly what happened. Penn Hills posted marquee wins at Steubenville, Ohio, and Mars prior to defeating Hampton, 34-3, in WPIAL Class 5A Northern Conference action Oct. 5.
“It’s great being part of the 500th win with such a storied program with a lot of great tradition. It’s awesome to see a lot of the alumni come out or post on social media their excitement for the 500th win,” coach Jon LeDonne said.
“They’re all the guys that were part of getting to that 500th win and reaching that milestone.”
The Penn Hills football program started in 1938, and the Indians won their first game, 12-7, against East Pittsburgh, on Oct. 7, 1938.
The Indians won WPIAL titles in 1976, 1978 and 1995. Penn Hills lost to Upper St. Clair, 18-12, in 2006 in the WPIAL championship.
Notable alumni include Bill Fralic, Aaron Donald, Barry Church, Tom Flynn and Anthony Morelli.
“It was really special because I feel as though we were just finishing the work we’ve been starting since 1938. It wasn’t one of those things where I felt as if I accomplished anything,” senior quarterback Hollis Mathis said.
“I felt it was a real big accomplishment and real big shout out to the really great teams before us. It was really just us finishing what they had started.”
The Indians are the 20th current program in WPIAL history to have at least 500 victories. The group includes Jeannette, New Castle, Aliquippa, McKeesport, Beaver, Beaver Falls, Clairton, Greensburg Salem, Washington, Monessen and Rochester, among others.
LeDonne experienced what Mathis and his teammates went through when he was part of an Aliquippa team that won their program’s 500th game in the early 2000s.
“It’s a very humbling experience with two storied and traditional football-rich powerhouses,” he said. “They’re very similar with the tough mentality, the physicality that I played at Aliquippa and now our players are playing with at Penn Hills. It’s a very similar flashback for me.”
The Indians have outscored opponents 42.4 to 13.3 in the first seven games of the season.
Even with the firepower in the senior class from wide receivers Daequan Hardy and Dante Cephas, complemented by running back Tank Smith, the Indians will need continued contributions from the underclassmen if they want to win WPIAL and PIAA titles.
Junior wide receiver Anthony Grimes and sophomore wide receiver Aakeem Snell have made LeDonne’s offense more potent.
“At practice, it’s really a tryout every day. Everybody is fighting for a spot, and we’re always trying to get each other better. We’re putting the best guys out there for each of the scenarios. I think that’s what makes us a close-knit team,” Mathis said.
“We’re always competing against each other for the same purpose for us to win games. I think that’s why we’ve had the production from the younger guys because we’re always working to get on the field. The best players will get on the field, and the best players will make plays on the field.”
Andrew John is a freelance writer.
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