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Penn Hills relishes conference title, reflects on season

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Lillian DeDomenic | For Trib Total Media
The Penn Hills Indians football team lost Friday nights Homecoming game against Bethel Park by a score of 31-28.

When it comes down to it, the final two weeks defined the Penn Hills football team’s season.

After traveling to the Wolvarena and knocking off Woodland Hills on Oct. 24, the Indians were upset the next week in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.

There’s no debating beating the rival Wolverines on their own turf was the biggest win of the season.

“I’m going to remember that until the day I die,” said Greg Hoolahan, a senior who caught a touchdown pass and also recovered a fumble to seal the 22-15 victory.

After such a momentous occasion, it was hard to regroup and get ready for another game.

“Everybody was too focused on the Woodland Hills game,” senior Isaiah Jones said.

“Since we beat them, we automatically thought we were going to Heinz Field (site of the WPIAL championship).”

Plum beat the Indians, 17-6, for the first time in 14 tries, while Penn Hills lost its fourth straight first-round playoff game.

“Our minds weren’t as focused as they should have been,” said Michael Ames, a senior lineman who said he will be playing at the University of Pennsylvania if he scores high enough on his ACT test in December.

“Plum came into that game on a mission and we did not.”

Despite the unsavory ending, the players and coaches considered the season quite a success.

After all, the Indians (7-3, 6-1 Quad Central) were conference champions for the first time since 2008.

“What the seniors have to remember is we were conference champions,” said head coach John Peterman.

“The younger kids need to remember what happened next.”

Topping the list of players who will be back next season is junior dual-threat quarterback Billy Kisner, who rushed for a team-best 1,019 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The run-first Indians also featured seniors Te’Shan Campbell (944 yards, 15 TDs), Henton Mathis (580 yards, 5 TDs) and Jones (439 yards, 3 TDs).

One of the more peculiar things about the Indians’ season was the “curse” of televised games.

“We were 0-3 on television and 7-0 otherwise,” Peterman said before joking, “When ROOT television calls me next year, I might tell them we’re not interested.”

What the team attributes its success to is neither the dominant running game nor the fast and athletic defense that helped the Indians win by an average of nearly two touchdowns per game, but rather the camaraderie.

Some of the seniors’ favorite moments did not even take place on the field.

Hoolahan has fond memories of “Hell Week” in which players stay overnight at the Bill Fralic Athletic Center during training camp.

“There’s no cellphones or outside communication, it’s just the team,” he said.

“Moments like that, nothing will touch. Even now, I’m close to my teammates because I spent Hell Week with them.”

For Ames, an impromptu dance session will live on in his memory — and online.

He said that during a break between training camp practices some players gathered in a corner of the locker room, turned up the music and busted a few moves.

The coaches got in on it by taking video and uploading it to social media.

“I saw coach Peterman smile for the first time in my life,” said Ames.

“Nothing was better than that.”

Ed Phillipps is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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