Pine-Richland’s Ethan Pillar picks up where he left off for PIAA champions

Saturday, September 23, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Ethan Pillar is a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, which he knows isn’t a normal occurrence for someone living in the Pittsburgh area.

“I hope the people in Pittsburgh don’t hold that against me too much,” Pillar said with a laugh.

If he continues to run the ball like he has the first four weeks of this season, nobody from Pine-Richland will bat an eye if he chooses to wear brown and orange on Sundays instead of black and gold.

Pillar, a senior, rushed for 499 yards and six touchdowns entering the Rams’ Week 5 matchup with Fox Chapel.

It’s been an impressive start, building off last year where he rushed for 1,309 yards and 16 touchdowns in helping the Rams win the Class 5A state title.

The stat lines are nice, but his attention is on the team’s success, and he senses they are heading in a positive direction after a 2-2 start.

“Our team is getting better and better week to week and that’s all I care about at this moment,” Pillar said.

Pillar was born in Cleveland, which is where his Browns fandom comes from. He moved to the Pine-Richland School District when he was in elementary school. His father still holds Browns season tickets, and they make the trek up the Turnpike to Cleveland for every home game.

His favorite player is Nick Chubb, and like many football fans, he was gutted to see him suffer a season-ending knee injury in last Monday night’s game against the Steelers.

On the field, Pillar likes to emulate Chubb, a bruising back that can beat opponents with his speed as well.

Pillar has a similar build at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds.

He used that frame to bully Seneca Valley on Sept. 15 en route to rushing for three touchdowns in a 35-13 win.

Pillar credited the game plan and his offensive line for paving the way for his success.

“All week we watched film and our coaches do a great job of getting us prepared,” Pillar said. “They come up with great schemes. I have to give it to our O-line, because they do a lot behind the scenes that goes unnoticed. When we saw Seneca Valley doing some things (on defense) we knew right automatically to flip the play and do something different instead. I think that really helped us get that victory.”

Pillar’s goal is to play in college. He hasn’t made a decision on his future home, but he has been taking campus tours. He’s visited Fordham, Ithica and Ashland (Ohio), which are a few of the schools that have expressed interest.

“It’s pretty cool getting interest from different schools and going to visit them,” Pillar said. “I’m really appreciative and think it’s awesome that they are interested in me. I don’t have a top school at the moment, but the experience has been great.”

Right now, he’s focused on helping Pine-Richland repeat as state champs. When he was younger he and some of his friends went to Hershey and watched the Rams play in multiple state championship games dreaming of one day getting a chance to be on the field for one.

He fulfilled that dream last year, and that’s made him hungry for more.

“The bar’s been set. … It’s the state championship every year now,” Pillar said. “All of our guys are coming together for the three hours we have practice, the two hours we have on the field and the half hour in the weight room and in the film room. We’re putting in work, because we know what people expect from Pine-Richland, and we don’t want to disappoint.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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