Penn Hills High football team celebrates state title with parade, assembly Saturday
Rain and cold temperatures wouldn’t keep Penn Hills native Deborah Phillips from seeing her son in the high school’s victory parade.
“We’re definitely excited,” she said wearing a red and gold feather boa, the school’s colors. “This hasn’t been done in years.”
Her son is lineman Roland Phillips, No. 50 in the programs but No. 1 in her heart.
The team went 16-0 and defeated Manheim Central in the PIAA championship at Hersheypark Stadium earlier this month.
The victory lap, from the former YMCA along Frankstown Road to the high school, took place Saturday , Dec. 15 .
About 100 to 130 spectators braved the elements.
The marching band and cheerleaders performed along the parade route. The basketball team, which won the WPIAL title this past season, and the football team had separate floats. Players held their trophies and signs high while being carted in trucks.
Penn Hills police, firefighters and a couple school buses were also part of the festivities.
Senior quarterback Hollis Mathis said the weather was like “a microcosm of our season.”
“That’s similar to what we’ve been enduring all season,” Mathis said. “There’s been bad weather during the games.
There have been some reasons for people not to come out to some games — and even as a community, there’s been some metaphorical raining on our parades.
”No matter how much rain there is there’s always going to be some people that are going to support us. There’s always going to be us doing our thing to get done what we have to do to get done.”
The parade was followed up by an assembly in the high school auditorium, where the championship teams honored Penn Hills’ Hometown High-Q team for their recent victories.
Senior wide receiver Corey Thomas said winning the state title, being in the parade and seeing all the people come out and support the school gaves him “pure excitement.”
“We’re just trying to get back to that winning tradition and get it started,” Thomas said. “(This year) was the year of the Indians. We’re just trying to keep it going.
“It’s what our community’s about. It means so much to us. … Undefeated state champion is how you dream of going out when you’re a young kid. Next year, I feel like they’re going to do the same thing. We’ve just got nothing but ‘ball players and dawgs’ coming back, from Anthony Grimes, Dylan Bennett, Aakeem Snell.
”They’re going to uphold the tradition and keep it going.”
Back to the beginning
Head football coach Jon LeDonne knew there was something special about his club months ago when camp and practices first started.
“We knew he had an opportunity, a possibility to be special this year,” LeDonne said. “We have a great amount of seniors, a lot of impact players who got a lot of experience last year. Expectations going in were for a special year. We reminded them: you gotta take it one day at a time, one week at a time. They did a great job focusing on the task at hand that day and getting better that day.”
Thomas said the players had the same focus from the first practice snap to the final game whistle.
“Everybody was on the same page,” Thomas said. “We just had way to much talent to not finish with a state championship and complete the goal, which was awesome.”
Bill Fralic remembered
He died Dec. 14 at the age of 56.
Some held signs honoring Fralic during the parade. LeDonne placed Fralic’s jersey across the podium when addressing the crowd at the high school.
The Bill Fralic Foundation donated $5,000 to Penn Hills to cover lodging for the football team in Hershey so they would not have to travel by bus the same day as the game.
“That’s just a very small part of what Mr. Fralic has done even just these past two years that I’ve been here,” LeDonne said. “The generosity and support of Bill and his foundation speaks volumes to who he is as an individual, how he was brought up here by his parents in the Penn Hills District.”
Attendees sung Penn Hills’ alma matter to close out the ceremonies.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, email@example.com or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.