Pine Richland, Pa. — Penn Hills (3-0, 1-0) traveled to Pine Richland (1-2, 0-1) to take on the Rams as two of the top 5A WPIAL teams faced off in their first-section game. It was a highly defensive battle, with the two teams each relying on a single offensive player to break through. Pitt commit and three-star quarterback Julian Dugger led the way for Penn Hills while running back Ethan Pillar made up the bulk of the Pine Richland offense. Ultimately it was Dugger’s Indians that’d come away with the section win, 26-20.
Pine Richland started with the ball and immediately drove down the field behind Pillar, who had the first five carries on Pine Richland for 22 yards. However, it was Talan Hill-Ressler who scored the game’s first touchdown on a 12-yard run. That gave Pine Richland a 7-0 lead early.
Behind Dugger, Penn Hills marched down the field a few possessions later to get their first points of the game, an eight-yard touchdown throw to Naytell Mitchell put them on the board. The missed extra points though, kept Pine Richland in the lead 7-6.
Pine Richland would take advantage of special teams with a long field goal of 48 yards to give them a 10-6 lead. A Penn Hills drive capped by a Dugger touchdown run gave them the lead at 12-10 but was followed by a Pine Richland touchdown drive capped from a 21-yard run by Pillar. As said earlier, the two players were the focal points of their respective offenses.
Penn Hills though would get the last laugh of the half with one more long drive and touchdown pass by Dugger. An interception by Corey Thomas Jr. sealed the halftime lead for Penn Hills at 18-17.
Dugger had six carries for 62 yds in the first half alongside four completions on 11 attempts for 44 yards and two touchdowns. Pine Richland’s Pillar had 19 carries for 87 yards. Both would eclipse 100 yards rushing with Dugger accomplishing this on the early in the second half.
On Penn Hills’ second drive of the second half, Dugger broke for a 60-yard touchdown run. The rest of the quarter would go on without any scoring, although Penn Hills would threaten after recoving a fumble on the kick return and a 29-yard run by Amir Key set them in the red zone. Notably, Key also had over 100-yards rushing in the game. Pine Richland stopped that drive on four downs though, keeping the score within reach.
Pine Richland struck first in the fourth quarter off a field goal by Agiro to make it a one possession, 26-20 game with 9:20 left. They’d get the ball back with approximately six minutes left and at their own 40-yard line, putting them in strong field position with the game on the line. They were able to methodically drive down the field, but failed to convert on a fourth down play at the Penn Hills 28-yard line and give the ball back to the Indians.
Pine Richland did get the ball back with 1:26 and no timeouts. A couple of completions over the middle from Kanan Huffman to Elijah Wentz helped them drive as the game reached it’s final seconds. On three pass plays, they’d find their way to the 25-yard line with 16.1 seconds left. They’d try a couple of throws to the end zone, but they’d fail to score and fell to Penn Hills 26-20.
Next week, both teams will appear in non-section games. Pine Richland will travel to Seneca Valley (0-2, 0-0) while Penn Hills will host Moon Township (0-3, 0-0).