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Penn Hills hopes to rebound from injury-riddled season

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Trib file photo
Penn Hills' quarterback Billy Kisner, above at practice on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, had another strong rushing performance against North Hills.
Penn Hills' Shawn Featherstone slashes through defenders during a team scrimmage at practice on Monday August 12, 2013.

It's hard to find a football coach who likes making excuses.

But if anybody is justified doing that, it's Penn Hills coach John Peterman.

Peterman's Indians saw a promising 2012 season derailed by injuries. At various times, 12 Penn Hills starters were sidelined with an assortment of injuries.

It all added up to a 3-5 record in conference play. It was the first time since 1997 that the Indians missed qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs.

“Last year we were trying to install a new offense, and all those injuries held us back,” Peterman said. “We were thin in some positions, especially in the line.”

With so many starters missing time last year, a considerable number of juniors and sophomores took advantage of extended playing time and are ready to drive Penn Hills back to playoff contention.

One is sophomore quarterback Billy Kisner, who saw varsity time as a freshman.

Candidates to catch Kisner's passes include seniors Shawn Featherstone, Michael Anthony and tight end Marshall Thompson. All three also will spend time in the defensive backfield.

Vying for time at running back will be sophomore Te'Shan Johnson and junior Cody Allen, who has returned to the school district from Central Catholic.

Senior Jon Pawlowski will anchor the Penn Hills line as a 3-5 defense will be employed.

“We've had a very good offseason turnout,” Peterman said. “We've gone to seven-on-seven camps at West Virginia, Pitt and Youngstown State to work on our passing game.”

Peterman said the true test will come during full-contact practices and games.

“As Steelers coach Mike Tomlin likes to say, ‘Football is played with pads on.' ”

Another favorable factor as Penn Hills prepares for its 76th football season is the return of the entire coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Joe Noll, whose task is to improve an attack that averaged only 11 points per game last season.

Peterman feels conference contenders will consist of familiar faces like last year's co-champions, Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon, last year's WPIAL runner-up, Woodland Hills, and Bethel Park.

This also will be the second season the Indians will be playing at the revamped Yuhas-McGinley Stadium, where artificial turf was installed last year and a set of visitors' bleachers are now erected.

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