Penn Hills Stuns Big Red
Steubenville drops opener for first time since 2001
STEUBENVILLE — In a game of big plays, Penn Hills had one more than Steubenville on a picture perfect Friday inside a packed Harding Stadium.
Senior quarterback Hollis Mathis, a Howard University commit, connected with Daequan Hardy for a 61-yard scoring strike with 2:41 left to play, and the Indians held on for a 21-14 opening-night victory.
The loss was Steubenville’s first in a season opener since 2001 when it dropped a 46-41 verdict to Baltimore Mount St. Joseph.
“We played a good team, and I think we’re a good team,” Steubenville coach Reno Saccoccia said. “We felt if we could stay even with them heading into the fourth quarter, the advantage would be ours.
“They hit three big bombs on us. When you have a team like Penn Hills with all the weapons they have, that’s going to happen. We held them and held them and held them. They hit three bombs and got 21 points.”
The Indians, a WPIAL Class 5A club, threatened several times during the opening 24 minutes, which ended in a scoreless tie. Big Red’s defense rose up each time and stopped the guests. Big plays by Caleb Mitchell and Noah Howarth helped keep Penn Hills out of the end zone.
Steubenville’s offense mounted a nice drive just before the half, reaching the Penn Hills 17 before time expired.
Saccoccia’s crew, which entered the opener riding a 14-game regular season winning streak, got on the board first when junior Tayveon Crawford took the second half kick, burst up the middle and sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown. Ian Phillips’ kick made it 7-0.
The Indians quickly responded, covering 53 yards in eight plays. The touchdown came on a 27-yard pass from Mathis to Hardy. A.J. Collins made it 7-7 with his conversion boot.
After its defense forced a Big Red punt, Penn Hills appeared to score again when Hardy fielded the ball at midfield and motored all the way to the house. The touchdown was nullified by a holding call.
Starting its drive at Big Red’s 25, the Indians needed just one snap to take the lead. The touchdown came on a 25-yard Mathis pass to Dante Cephas. The conversion kick failed.
Steubenville regained the lead with 3:14 left on a 3-yard run by Caleb Mitchell. Three snaps before the score, Caleb Mitchell scooted 68 yards with a pass from Randy Mitchell. Big Red went ahead, 14-13, thanks to Phillips’ kick.
That set the stage for Hardy’s touchdown catch, which came on fourth-and-10.
“Our defense played outstanding, and our offense played good enough to win the game,” Saccoccia said following the first meeting between the schools. “We didn’t do exactly what we should have done, however.
“Starting with me, we didn’t do the little things. We let little things prevent us from winning the game. We’ll get better.”
Offensively, Penn Hills ran the football 17 times for minus 11 yards. Mathis, however, had a huge night, completing 21 of 35 passes for 286 yards and three scores.
Big Red had 143 yards on the ground and 107 through the air. Crawford finished with 80 yards on 20 trips, while Randy Mitchell, making his first start under center, completed three of his four passes for 106 yards.
Penn Hills 21, Steubenville 14
Penn Hills 0 0 13 8 — 21
Steubenville 0 0 7 7 — 14
S — Crawford 80 kick return (Phillips kick)
P — Hardy 27 pass from Mathis (Collins kick)
P — Cephas 25 pass from Mathis (kick failed)
S — C. Mitchell 3 run (Phillips kick)
P — Hardy 61 pass from Mathis (Smith pass from Mathis)
Rushing: Penn Hills 17-(-11) (Mathis 8-(-6); Smith 5-(-5); Plowden 1-(-1); Boswell 1-(-6); Grimes 1-(-2); Topek 1-9); Steubenville 49-143-td (C. Mitchell 10-26-td; Criss 1-(-10); R. Mitchell 16-42; Crawford 20-80; Tuttle 2-5).
Passing: Penn Hills 21-35-286-3td (all by Mathis); Big Red 4-5-107 (R. Mitchell 3-4-106; Criss 1-1-1)
Receiving: Penn Hills 21-286-3td (Hardy 4-107-2td; Martin 3-24; Grimes 3-48; Cephas 4-64-td; Boswell 1-7; Smith 4-23; Plowden 2-13); Steubenville 4-107 (C. Mitchell 2-69; Rauch 1-10; Duggan 1-27).
First Downs: Penn Hills 15; Steubenville 11.
Penalties: Penn Hills 13-118; Steubenville 7-44.
Fumbles-Lost: Penn Hills 0-0; Steubenville 1-0.