Gorman: Penn Hills honors its past for football future
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Before Bill Fralic became the greatest offensive lineman in WPIAL history, he was a freshman tackle who screwed up an assignment and received a painful punishment from then-Penn Hills coach Andy Urbanic.
Fralic was forced to do a bear crawl — walking on all fours — the length of the football field.
“I remember thinking I wasn't ever going to make it, but you didn't want to quit,” said Fralic, a three-time All-America and College Football Hall of Famer at Pitt who was the Atlanta Falcons' No. 1 pick in 1984. “He was very demanding. He made you do things you never thought you'd be able to do.”
In an effort to connect its proud past with its football future, Penn Hills will honor Urbanic before its game against Baldwin at 7 tonight at Andrew Yuhas Stadium. The game will be televised on ROOT Sports.
Inviting Urbanic was the brainchild of John Peterman, the Penn Hills athletic director in his first season as head football coach. A 1985 Penn Hills graduate, Peterman contacted Fralic and asked him to reach out to Urbanic, now in his 22nd year as associate director of athletics for football operations and special projects at Florida State.
“We want to honor him for being inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame,” Peterman said, “but also for his contributions to Penn Hills as the football coach and in the aspects of me trying to get alumni football players back with the program.”
Urbanic compiled a 110-30-2 record from '68-80 at Penn Hills, leading the Indians to four consecutive WPIAL Class AAA titles (the '79 crown was vacated for using an ineligible player) before leaving to become an assistant at Pitt.
Penn Hills has won one WPIAL title since, in '95.
“I like his attitude, where he's coming from and what he's trying to do,” Fralic said of Peterman, who expects about five dozen football alums to attend.
“Andy Urbanic was a guy if you met off the football field, you'd think he was a senator. If you saw him on the field, you wouldn't confuse the two. He preached toughness, technique, demanded accountability and teamwork. We had very physical practices. Games were easy compared to practices. When games came around, we were ready to play.”
Urbanic also was the first person to contact Peterman when he was named athletic director six years ago and again when he was named head coach.
Peterman landed a $200,000 grant from the Steelers and the NFL's Grassroots Program to help cover costs of a turf field after being forced to move home playoff games to Plum twice since 2005 because of field conditions.
Now, Peterman is trying to restore Penn Hills' pride.
“As anyone that plays for me now would tell you, their head coach bleeds red and gold,” he said. “We have to change a lot of things that haven't been followed. It's a work progress, but we're headed in the right direction.”
Peterman is hoping the return of Urbanic and Penn Hills greats inspires his team to accomplish things it never thought it could once again.
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