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Penn Hills’ defense flashes its “Mason’s” license, stonewalls North Hills

Written by: on Saturday, November 8th, 2008

GIBSONIA, Pa. – North Hills’ theme song the past seven weeks could have easily been “Rolling Right Along.”  The Indians were on a seven-game winning streak, and were playing a balanced brand of offense while slamming the door defensively, allowing just over 10 points per game.

Then came the WPIAL quarterfinals and the red-hot Penn Hills Indians.

North Hills, shall we say, was stonewalled.

Limited to just 52 total yards of offense and four first downs, North Hills (9-2) was felled by Penn Hills (8-3) 27-0 from Pine-Richland High School. 

With the win, Penn Hills, winners of seven straight games after a 1-3 start, advances to play Gateway, a 24-0 winner over Shaler, in the WPIAL semifinals next weekend.  A site and time will be determined later.

But here was the caveat from Friday’s performance:  Penn Hills quarterback Tom Fulton, a career 4,000-yard passer, only completed one pass in seven attempts for a single yard.  In one of the few statistical categories won this night for NH, passing yards was one of them.

NH out-passed PH a whopping 14-1 for the game.  But North Hills took a pounding from the Penn Hills ground game.

Penn Hills grabbed a 7-0 lead with 6:26 left in the opening half on a Teddy Blakeman one yard scoring run.  The drive, an 11-play, 73-yard, 3:58 march, which was comprised exclusively running plays by either Blakeman or backfield mate Chris Darby.

“In the passing game, we hurt ourselves with some motion penalties,” Penn Hills head coach Ron Graham said.  “We just had to recover and go back to the running game.

“We had to mix it up because they were a very good defensive football team.”

PH stole a page from North Hills, then, because the Indians scored two defensive touchdowns in the game.  The first, a 70-yard fumble return by Terrell Washington, extended the PH margin to 14-0 with 3:22 left in the opening half.

The second, a 15-yard fumble return by Demetrius Moye, capped Penn Hills’ scoring for the night with 3:14 left in the game.

But the chances of North Hills winning the game were bleak even before Penn Hills got the 70-yard fumble return.

Starting senior quarterback Justin Heinauer, a 1,400-yard passer this season, suffered an injury to his right leg with 6:05 left in the opening half.  His leg was placed in an air cast, and he was carted from the NH sideline.

“When Heinauer went down, our hopes (of winning) went down with him,” said North Hills head coach Jack McCurry, a 255-game winner.  “It took almost everything out of us.”

Junior backup TJ McElwaine filled in for Heinauer the rest of the game, and he didn’t fare very well – four rushes for minus-17 yards and 0-for-5 in the passing game.

Heinauer finished with two rushes for zero yards and completed 3-of-5 passes for 14 yards.

Penn Hills, which forced its second straight shutout in the playoffs, got a pair of field goals from kicker Mike Ferraco for their remaining points.

Dan Mason led the way for Penn Hills defensively, with seven tackles.

Offensively, Teddy Blakeman ran for 138 yards and a touchdown, while Darby added 17 rushes for 81 yards.  Kadeem Williams added two rushes for 27 yards for Penn Hills.

Max Creighan led the way for NH with 48 rushing yards on six carries.  Elijah David had just 11 yards on nine carries.  North Hills, as a team, was limited to 38 rushing yards on 25 carries.

Senior linebacker Mike Hirt finished his career in style, racking up 22 tackles.  He entered the game with 104 tackles, according to a North Hills statistician.  It’s the third straight year the 5’10, 160 lb. senior has led NH in tackles.

“That’s a typical performance for him,” McCurry said of #24.

Shutouts are becoming pretty typical for Penn Hills, too.  Just ask Mason.

“That’s what we came out here to do,” he said.  “We did it.  We accomplished it.”

Next week comes a bigger test. 

But the way Penn Hills is playing right now, anything is possible.

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