Penn Hills football team showed development during playoff season

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Sunday 28 November 2021 | 11:01 am


Development is a priority in the Penn Hills football program.

The Indians, who were eliminated from the playoffs after a 14-9 loss to Moon in the WPIAL Class 5A semifinal on Nov. 19 at Newman Stadium, will lose three offensive linemen upon graduation. Two of those players – Khalil Barley Morrow and Christian Williams – were first-year starters along with fellow senior and veteran Luke Pugliese.

“It’s all about reps and development,” said Penn Hills coach Jon LeDonne. “This season is a testament to the growth and maturity of the players. They showed up ready to work and absorb the information given to them.

Penn Hills, who was 8-4 overall and finished in a tie three for the Northeastern Conference Championship, learned early that he needed to make improvements. Indians were dominated by a total of 89-20 in the first two weeks by Central Catholic and Gateway.

“I really think playing high caliber, playoff type teams benefits you,” said LeDonne. “We made a lot of simple mental mistakes. As the season progressed, they took advantage of those past experiences and made improvements. “

While turnovers and mental mistakes have haunted Penn Hills throughout the season, the Indians have shown their growth in the playoffs. Playing against rival Gateway, who beat Penn Hills by 28 early in the season, the Indians took a 17-0 lead before retaining a 23-20 victory.

The Penn Hills defense continued to play strong in the semifinals, limiting Moon to 14 points, the season low. The problem was, the Indians couldn’t force the Tigers to make decisive mistakes.

“The semi-final game is a bit more difficult. Points are harder to come by, ”said LeDonne. “Moon played an error-free game.”

Penn Hills, who reached the semi-finals for the first time since winning the WPIAL and PIAA titles in 2018, will find the pieces to be competitive again next year.

The Indians will return their main passer, second-year quarterback Julian Dugger. Dugger is a double threat, passing for 1,306 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. Dugger was also second on the ground team with 651 yards.

His sophomore Amir Key, who led the team with 842 rushing yards, will also be back with fellow backers Amir Rollins and Naytell Mitchell.

LeDonne knows that expectations will be high following their success this season.

“We want to keep improving,” LeDonne said. “There are high expectations for what we have been able to accomplish this year. We lose a lot in attack, especially on the offensive line. If you don’t have a blockage, it doesn’t matter what you have in the back.

Tags: Penn Hills

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