Penn Hills responds well to dose of adversity

Sunday, October 1, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Penn Hills football coach Charles Morris prepared the team to face major adversity from the first day of training camp.

Morris got an idea of how the Indians would handle it when things didn’t go right after Penn Hills lost Sept. 15 to Moon. The Indians, who were ranked No. 1 in Class 5A, saw the Tigers come into Yuhas-McGinley Stadium and escape with a one-point win.

“We didn’t want the kids to get down because of the hiccup that happened,” Morris said. “I had to do a better job of preparing our guys.”

What Penn Hills’ next game against North Hills proved was the offense certainly wasn’t fazed by one bad performance.

Penn Hills turned things around in Northeast Conference play by racing past North Hills, 34-9.

“I think overall our kids were locked in,” Morris said. “It was a great week of practice. Our preparation was better. Our approach was better. They didn’t get down and dwell on the loss.”

The Indians have shown this season that they have the firepower to score with any team in Class 5A. Penn Hills has scored 26 or more points in all four of their wins.

Against North Hills, quarterback Julian Dugger threw for 263 yards and four touchdowns. Martel Palmer finished with 122 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Cam Thomas is another wide receiver who has been drawing attention from Division I schools. Penn Hills is also fortunate to have a veteran running back in Amir Key. Key has drawn interest from FCS schools.

Morris said he appreciates watching how Key has made plays. What stands out is how he reads the field.

“His vision and balance,” Morris said, citing the 5-foot-8 Key’s greatest strengths. “He is able to set up tacklers and to not take direct shots from them. He’s able to roll his body off tackles. He has vision, balance and patience. He also has the ability to change direction. He is a total package, other than not being 6-foot-3.”

The Indians hope that their offensive firepower will allow them to outlast other teams on the road to the Class 5A playoffs. The Indians missed out on the playoffs last season after reaching the semifinals in 2021.

Penn Hills wants to find a way to win its first WPIAL title since it won the state and district championship in 2018.

Losing to Moon provided the Indians with the spark on how to avoid misfortune.

“They were chomping at the bit,” Morris said. “They can respond to adversity. That can be our approach all year. It’s about how you respond to adversity. You don’t want to whine about errors or mistakes.”


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