Penn Hills Captures Sixth Football WPIAL Championship
For the first time since 1995, the Penn Hills football program can call themselves WPIAL champions. The No. 2 Indians, who are playing in their first year in Class 5A after competing in Class 6A the previous two years, defeated No. 5 West Allegheny, 28-18, in the championship game at Norwin High School on Friday.
It was the sixth WPIAL championship in program history, who also won four straight in the 1970’s.
It wasn’t a good start for Penn Hills, who fell behind 10-0 in the second quarter. After a scoreless first quarter, senior John McArdle connected on a 37-yard field goal for a 3-0 West Allegheny lead.
The Indians grew their lead later in the quarter on a 13-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Kam Kruze to senior wide receiver Dre’Von Baldwin.
For the second week in a row, Penn Hills had to mount a double-digit comeback. The Indians began that comeback before half on a 56-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Hollis Mathis to senior wide receiver Dante Cephas. The two-point conversion was no good, and Penn Hills trailed 10-6 at the half.
The momentum continued to swing in favor of Penn Hills in the third quarter. The Indians took their first lead of the game on a 15-yard run by senior Terry “Tank” Smith. Senior Daequan Hardy ran in the two-point conversion to give Penn Hills a 14-10 lead.
As the clock turned to the fourth quarter, Cephas and Mathis continued to hook up on their splash plays. Two duo connected on their second touchdown on 50-plus yards, a 65-yard strike to increase the lead. The two-point conversion gave Penn Hills a 22-10 lead.
Penn Hills tacked on another insurance touchdown on Mathis’ third passing score of the game, a 13-yard pass to senior Richard Martin. The two-point conversion failed, making it 28-10.
West Allegheny cut the deficit to 10 on a 54-yard pass from Kruze to senior Mateo Vandamia, plus the two-point conversion, but it was too little too late.
West Allegheny ends its season 10-3 in head coach Bob Palko’s final season.
With the win, Penn Hills improves to 14-0 and will face District 12 champion, Archbishop Wood, in the PIAA semifinals next weekend at a site and time to be determined.