Team mentality guides Hempfield in opening win vs. Norwin

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Saturday, September 12, 2020 | 7:49 PM


There is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in winning.

That’s what NBA legend Michael Jordan once told his coach, as revealed in the documentary “The Last Dance.”

No matter where you put the “I,” Hempfield football proved the value of teamwork Friday when it banded together and defeated rival Norwin, 28-14, in the WPIAL Class 6A opener for both teams.

After having disastrous scrimmage against a talented Penn-Trafford team, a game in which the Spartans lost numerous starters to season-ending injuries, Hempfield came together as a team and earned its first win of the season.

“Penn-Trafford punched us in the mouth and gave us a wake-up call,” said Hempfield senior Mario Perkins, who scored two touchdowns, rushed for 63 yards and caught eight passes for 53 yards. “We had a lot of people step up after we faced some adversity.”

Perkins, who plays outside linebacker, and Demetrius Murphy, who was moved to middle linebacker from the outside after a couple injuries, were all over the field making plays and putting pressure on Norwin’s offense.

Murphy and Daniel Sierk each had three sacks, and Sean Knight recovered a fourth-quarter fumble to end a Norwin scoring threat. Sophomore Ian Tuffs sealed the win by intercepting a pass with 52 seconds left.

“Demetrius played his first game at inside linebacker,” Hempfield coach Rich Bowen said. “He had two days of practice. He did a great job, and Mario always plays great on offense and defense.

“I’m just proud on the way we played. We fought through a lot of cramps. A couple injuries against Penn-Trafford last week took a couple kids out of the season. We had to have some kids fill in, and they did a great job.”

And while the defense did a good job getting stops, Hempfield also welcomed back senior quarterback Christian Zilli, who didn’t play the past two seasons.

Zilli ran the ball effectively and connected on some huge passes, especially during the winning drive.

“Christian, who hasn’t played since his freshman year, did a great job,” Bowen said. “I’m proud of all the kids. This has been tough this year trying to get ready for the season. We weren’t able to bring out a football until July 27.

“And to come that way and be able to get a first big win with a couple weeks of practice, I’m very proud of them.”

Zilli made his presence felt. He rushed for a team-high 83 yards and scored a touchdown, and he completed 11 of 19 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown, a superb one-handed catch by Roman Pellis.

Bowen said he heard rumors Zilli was thinking about returning to football.

“My first game back felt amazing,” Zilli said. “I’ve been away since my freshman year and to get back with all my guys, I’ve really missed the past two seasons and it felt great to be back.”

If Hempfield wants to continue to succeed, playing as a team will be the key. It was Friday.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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