North Hills halts Simpson, Penn-Trafford
Besides winning, North Hills had just one other thing in mind when it squared off against Penn-Trafford in the opening round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs Friday night.
The third-ranked Indians were determined to stop bruising Warriors running back Manny Simpson.
They succeeded, holding a hobbled Simpson to 40 yards rushing and advancing to the quarterfinals with a 20-3 victory.
North Hills will face Upper St. Clair next week.
“That’s the bottom line. We got the victory,” North Hills coach Jack McCurry said. “But we’ve got to be able to make (more) plays.”
A relieved McCurry said North Hills met a chief goal of stopping Penn-Trafford’s Simpson, who entered with 1,195 yards rushing.
“We held him to (40), and that’s a pretty good job,” McCurry said.
Simpson, nursing a strained hamstring, limped off the field afterward shaking his head. He absorbed another pounding from the opposing defense while lugging the ball 21 times.
“Our record doesn’t show it,” he said, “but it was a great season. We played some tough games. This was one of them. I couldn’t be prouder of our seniors. I just wish they were coming back.”
Quarterback Taylor Schmidt scored two touchdowns — on runs of 1 and 6 yards — and North Hills (9-1) wore down the Penn-Trafford defense. Josh Neurohr added an 11-yard run late to seal the victory.
“It stings now, but we have high expectations as we look towards next season,” first-year Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said.
The Warriors (4-6) return a nucleus of seniors next season, including Simpson and quarterback Zach Emerick, who threw an interception that set up North Hills’ first score just before halftime.
It was nearly a scoreless first half.
North Hills made the most of Kevin Corcoran’s interception at the Penn-Trafford 34, driving to the end zone in the final three minutes of the first half. Schmidt’s 1-yard sneak with three seconds left gave North Hills a precarious 6-0 cushion.
North Hills missed on another scoring opportunity in the first half when Neurohr dropped a pass at the Penn-Trafford 5. The Indians also nearly scored again in the fourth, but Ben Fayard couldn’t hold on to Steve Dutkowski’s pass in the end zone.
As has been the case all season, Dutkowski and Schmidt effectively alternated at quarterback for North Hills. Against Penn-Trafford, they finished a combined 9 for 17 for 82 yards.
Penn-Trafford couldn’t cash in on a long drive that consumed nearly all of the third quarter and settled or a 35-yard field goal by Christian Mossellum, the Warriors’ only points.
The score stayed 6-3 in favor of North Hills until Schmidt scored on a fourth-down keeper of 6 yards to make the score 13-3.
The Indians squashed any final Penn-Trafford hopes when Mike Murphy intercepted Emerick’s pass, and three plays later, Neurohr scored with 1:19 remaining.
Neurohr led all rushers with 59 yards on 15 carries.