Penn Hills players enjoy chance to take field together a final time at NFBD all-star game

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Thursday, June 6, 2019 | 4:59 PM


A majority of the seniors from the Penn Hills football who helped win a state championship for the first time since 1995 got to play together for one final time.

Eleven seniors from Penn Hills played for the Never Fear team in the NFBD all-star football game June 2 at Cupples Stadium in the South Side. However, the Never Fear team lost to Team Different, 14-7, after a late 5-yard touchdown run by North Penn quarterback Steve DePaul.

The all-star game featured 70 high school football players from across Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

Penn Hills was well-represented by quarterback Hollis Mathis, wide receiver Dante Cephas, running back Tank Smith and cornerback Daequan Hardy, among others.

Mathis (William & Mary) found Cephas (Kent State) for a 14-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7 early in the fourth quarter.

Mathis finished 4 of 8 for 76 yards and one touchdown, and Cephas pulled in two catches for 58 yards. Mathis also hurdled two defenders for a 16-yard gain that put Never Fear into position to score.

“It was what it was supposed to be. It was fun to see the community and everybody in the area of Pittsburgh come out and to play a super fun football game,” Mathis said.

“It was nice to get on the field one final time with my teammates from Penn Hills. We were itching to have anything resembling what we had this past year one last time.”

Smith’s (St. Francis, Pa.) largest run came on a 26-yard carry in the first half.

Hardy (Penn State) beat out Imhotep’s Anthony Gordon in the 40-yard dash to determine which team starts with the ball in the all-star game.

Running back Roland Phillips and wide receiver Corey Thomas Jr. were joined by offensive lineman George Freeman and Jayden Terry in the all-star game.

On the defensive side, lineman Armand Gustave and linebackers Jordy Boswell and Devyn Best joined Hardy.

“It definitely brought back memories. It made me miss the season. I’m going to miss all of those guys. I give them credit for being picked for the all-star game,” Gustave said.

Aside from having the opportunity to line up alongside their Penn Hills teammates, it gave the Indians a chance to play with and against top WPIAL talent they didn’t get a chance to compete against.

Mathis was excited to face off against South Fayette quarterback Jamie Diven, who played for Team Different.

“It was fun to finally play against him since he goes to South Fayette. We never got to play against him. It was me going out and having fun and doing what I love to do the most,” Mathis said.

Mathis and Gustave were excited to play on the same field as Steel Valley linebacker Todd Hill (Duquesne), to go against many Woodland Hills players like wide receiver Jayden Lucas or future teammates at Robert Morris.

Last month, Gustave participated in the PSFCA Big 33 East/West Game at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona where head coach Jon LeDonne was coaching the defense.

This time around, Gustave was joined by more of his teammates for one final time.

“It was a blessing. We had a good time. We enjoyed ourselves as we faced other all-stars,” Gustave said.

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