North Hills football team primed for solid season
At North Hills, playing defense is not a phase of a football game, it is a matter of pride.
For a team to have pride, it must have heart, and at the heart of that defense is senior middle linebacker Anthony Danko, a player defensive coordinator Pat Carey said is the key component.
“The team is tough mentally, and Anthony (helps) bring that,” Carey said. “He leads by example and speaks with his actions.”
His idea is to let Danko patrol the field, and to do that, senior defensive lineman Andrew Ungerman and his linemates will have to keep the offensive linemen off the speedy linebacker.
“We have to occupy the gaps while trying to get sacks,” Ungerman said. “The strength of my game this year is my experience. I am looking for retribution for last year.”
To return to prominence, Ungerman simply stated the fact the team has to play together.
“There are a lot of teams out there with talent, but if you have to play together (to be successful,” he said, “you also have to play with enthusiasm and keep your head up.”
The front seven seems anchored, according to Carey, with a senior-laden group sprinkled in with some young talent, but the secondary is equally as strong with three returning players there.
Seniors Tyler Reddick, Josh Hulbert and Jordan Blackmon all are back and ready to contribute to keeping the opposing offense off the board.
“We have the ability to run and play smart,” Carey said.
Speed and smarts are going to be paramount, as this defense will have the task of chasing down runners such as Brock Baranowski of Pine-Richland and Seneca Valley's Forrest Barnes.
Defense might set the standard, but the offense has some firepower of its own, starting with a trio of running backs with a combined nine seasons of playing time under their belts.
Blackmon, Reddick and Hulbert are more than the starting secondary for the Indians, they will divvy up the carries and force opposing defenses to commit to stopping the run.
“If we can find a few more offensive linemen, we can do a lot of things (with these three backs),” said Jack McCurry, North Hills' head coach. “We have a good center and guard in (junior) Brandon Malick and Andrew Ungerman.”
McCurry still was trying to round out that group as training camp wore on.
Calling the signals will be the Brian Johnson, a senior who comes over from the basketball world. It has been awhile since he lined up under center, but, McCurry said, he is coming along.
“Brian has some things to learn, but he is athletic,” McCurry said.
Johnson will have a running game to work with, as well as junior tight end Corey Bopp, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound target, who also could serve as a nice blocker in the running game. At receiver, junior Larry Richardson will be one of the weapons the Indians will look at to balance the attack.
McCurry also is excited about kicker Wayne Carney, a senior, who can hit the long field goals, which might prove pivotal in close games.
“Wayne is accurate from the 40-45 yard range,” McCurry said. “We will give him a try if the situation come up.”
McCurry said the key to the success this season is how the young players fill in the gaps around an experienced nucleus.
“We have to see how they mesh,” McCurry said. “The expectations here are high. We have to find the kids who can meet them.”
Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-779-6979.