Hardy Lifts Penn Hills to First State Championship in 23 Years

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Daequan Hardy was no slouch during the regular season. The senior was a first-team defensive back in the Northern Conference.

On Friday night, Hardy showed why he earned that status, putting in one of the greatest performances in the state championship game, that will be talked about for a long time.

Hardy had three interceptions, including a 100-yard pick-six, a kickoff return for a touchdown, and two more touchdowns on offense to lead Penn Hills to a 36-31 win against District 3 champion, Manheim Central, at Hersheypark Stadium in the Class 5A championship.

Manheim Central jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but the Indians responded quickly. Senior quarterback Hollis Mathis found his classmate Corey Thomas  for a 6-yard strike to cut the deficit to 7-6 after a failed two point conversion. Both Mathis and Thomas were named to the first-team all-section, Thomas as a defensive back.

The Indians took their first lead of the game on Hardy’s first touchdown of the game, a 74-yard pass from Mathis.

With 14 seconds left in the half and Manheim Central driving, Hardy flipped the game around with his 10-yard interception return for a touchdown to give Penn Hills a 18-7 lead at the half.

It as more of the same in the third quarter with Mathis and Hardy connecting for their second touchdown of the game, a 27-yard scoring play for a 24-7 lead.

Senior Terry “Tank” Smith joined in on the fun with a 35-yard run for a 30-7 lead.

Manheim Central scored its second touchdown of the game to make it 30-14, but Hardy made sure that momentum would be short-lived. Hardy returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards for a score. Manheim Central scored the next three times but it was too little too late as Penn Hills hung on for the win.

Smith led the Indians in rushing with 103 yards on 18 carries. Mathis finished 10 of 16 for 195 yards. Hardy had three receptions for 109 yards and senior Dante Cephas had four catches for 66 yards.

Defensively, senior Jordy Boswell led the Indians with 13 tackles and a sack. Senior Devyn Best finished with nine tackles and a sack.

Penn Hills finished the season 16-0, and hoisted the state championship trophy for the first time since 1995.