Young but experienced North Hills embracing new offense

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Thursday, August 10, 2023 | 11:13 PM


Facing one of the more daunting schedules in the WPIAL, North Hills heads into the 2023 season with some significant changes both on the field and on the sideline.

The Indians finished last season 3-8 but went 3-2 in Class 5A’s Northeast Conference. The season was a roller coaster, featuring an 0-4 start, followed by a three-game winning streak and an 0-4 run to end the year, including a tight 19-17 loss to top seed Bethel Park in the WPIAL playoffs.

“The schedule was a test, for sure,” said Pat Carey, who enters his 11th season as North Hills coach. “We had a younger team last year, for sure, and played a lot of inexperienced players. But through the ups and downs we had, we certainly grew as a team. The young guys got some experience, and we’re anxious to see how they use that experience this year.”

From a schedule standpoint, this season isn’t exactly going to be a relief for North Hills. It begins with strong Class 5A programs in Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair and Gateway and rounds out the nonconference schedule with Seneca Valley and Franklin Regional.

“I think we’re a little more up for the schedule this year,” Carey said. “Not to say that we can beat all of those teams, but it’s a grind. It is what it is. We have to play the schedule, and hopefully we’ll go out and compete early.”

To help the cause, Carey has brought on former Pine-Richland assistant Andrew Wyzkoski as the team’s new offensive coordinator. So the Indians will look a good bit different – and quicker – on offense, both in scheme and in personnel.

“We’ll be more of an up-tempo team than we have been in years past,” Carey said of the spread scheme. “We’ll be attacking by both running and throwing the football. We’ll have a ‘get after it’ pace.

“And everybody’s comfortable with the offense because we see it so often. The main thing for me is that the ability to get into the right play calls on the line of scrimmage is important. We’ve defended it for years and years, and I’m anxious to see if we’re able to make the adjustments.”

Leading that offense will be senior quarterback Connor Davis, who started in last year’s playoff loss and takes over for three-year starter John Green. Sophomore Kelly McCarthy will back up Davis, but could see some playing time too.

“The thing I really like about Connor is his intelligence, his ability to read coverages and to count the numbers in the box and put us in the right plays,” Carey said. “While he’s still a bit green as far as reps go, we like the way he’s progressed through the summertime as far as learning the offense, developing chemistry with our offense and being a leader on the team.”

John Green’s younger brother, Julius, is a returner at running back and safety after running for 340 yards and three touchdowns last season. Dason Towler will complement him in the backfield.

“That combination of guys we think will be really good,” Carey said. “Julius, he’s a junior now, and he’s the unquestioned leader of this group.”

Logan Johnson returns as the team’s primary pass catcher as a tight end. And, while the receivers will be more of a “by committee” approach, according to Carey, sophomore Josiah Mathis is a young player who could break out this season.

The Indians return three starters on the offensive line, including Wesley Taylor, 300-pound Jamar Allen and Jake Messina, who is getting plenty of collegiate interest for his work on both sides of the ball.

“We like the makeup, but have to find a few more guys to finish that group,” Carey said. “The health and depth of our offensive line will be key for us.”

Defensively, Julius Green is back after leading the team in tackles in 2023. Carey’s son, Ryan, will also play linebacker, as will Towler. Messina and Allen will play on the defensive line, with help from Brett Fonzi. Mathis will be the top talent in the secondary.

That group of players will try to again find a way to reach the postseason out of a difficult Northeast Conference that also features Pine-Richland, Penn Hills, Shaler, Fox Chapel and Woodland Hills.

“There’s not a letdown in the conference,” Carey said. “You can’t take anybody lightly, and every single conference game is vital to your success and a playoff berth. We’ll have our hands full in the conference.”

And while the Indians won’t have a tremendous amount of seniors on the field this season, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to Carey, as he gets set for the grueling schedule.

“The strength of our team, oddly enough, is that we don’t have many seniors,” he said. “Our seniors are definitely our leaders, but the bulk of our team is mostly juniors and sophomores.

“For us, it’s going to be a growing process. These kids are young, but experienced. They’ve already played in a lot of tough environments against good opponents.”

North Hills

Coach: Pat Carey

2022 record: 3-8, 3-2 in Class 5A Northeast Conference

All-time record: 512-323-27

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.25 Bethel Park, 7

9.1 at Upper St. Clair, 7

9.8 at Gateway, 7

9.15 Woodland Hills, 7

9.22 Penn Hills*, 7

9.29 at Fox Chapel*, 7

10.6 at Shaler*, 7

10.13 Seneca Valley, 7

10.20 at Franklin Regional, 7

10.27 Pine-Richland*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: John Green*

86-169, 897 yards, 10 TDs

Rushing: Julius Green

83-340 yards, 3 TDs

Receiving: Michael Hoskey*

18-299 yards, TD

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Lineman Jake Messina has offers from Mercyhurst, Cal (Pa.) and Clarion.

• North Hills will celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the program’s last WPIAL and PIAA titles, beating Upper St. Clair and CB West to win titles in 1993.

• The Indians are in search of their first postseason win since 2010.

• Coach Pat Carey, a 1988 North Hills grad, won a WPIAL title in 1987 with the Indians, who were named national champions by USA Today.

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