Penn Hills capitalizes on costly fumbles in win vs. Upper St. Clair

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Sitting in a metal folding chair with his arms crossed in the corner of his team's locker room Friday night, there was little that Jim Render could take away from what had just transpired on the field.

He was proud of his players, but even for an Upper St. Clair team that returned one starter from last season, there was little to be gained in a 31-13 loss to Penn Hills to open the season.

"You don't learn anything from getting beat," Render said matter-of-factly.

The loss was defined by the Panthers' three fumbles in a 61/2-minute span in the second quarter. Those three turnovers resulted in 17 points for the Indians (1-0).

When not capitalizing on their opponents' miscues, Penn Hills consistently made plays that ultimately helped give it a win. It utilized a small catalog of plays -- something you wouldn't expect from a team with a coach whose last name is Peterman -- but it used them effectively, largely because of a backfield duo that could emerge as one the WPIAL's best this season.

Quarterback Billy Kisner and running back Te'Shan Campbell combined for 256 rushing yards (140 of which came from Kisner) and all three of the team's offensive touchdowns.

For a program that hasn't won more than five games in a season since 2008, the victory provided hope.

"It's a huge win to open up with," Penn Hills coach John Peterman said. "We're expecting more out of this season, so we'll go back tomorrow and get ready for [Canon-McMillan]."

The Panthers (0-1) held a 7-0 lead about halfway through the second quarter, but soon enough, everything began to unravel.

While being tackled, receiver Andrew Bartusiak fumbled the ball, which was scooped up by the Indians' Christian Randall-Posey, who ran it 52 yards the other way to even the score.

On the following drive, as Panthers quarterback Dan Trocano was trying to evade two charging Penn Hills linemen, he was hit while attempting a pass. Yet again, an Indians player fell on top of the ball, giving them possession at the Upper St. Clair 36.

From there, Kisner directed the team on an abbreviated touchdown drive, with Campbell finishing things off with a 1-yard run into the end zone.

And if a third fumble in as many possessions seemed like a bad dream for Render and his team, it quickly became a sobering reality.

On a third-and-1 from their 37, Trocano was scrambling toward the sideline looking for an open receiver. Yet again, as he tried to make a pass, he was hit and lost the ball, giving Penn Hills the prime field position it needed to tack on a field goal before the second quarter ended.

At halftime, the teams were only separated by a few yards, but the scoreboard was a more accurate reflection of how damning those three turnovers were played.

"We couldn't afford to give them the ball that many times," Render said. "We had to play a much more perfect game. They were faster and more physical and we gave them three more opportunities. We can't do that."

Even when it looked as if Upper St. Clair had some momentum, things flat-lined.

The Panthers marched to the Penn Hills 30 on their first drive of the second half, but they eventually stalled and the drive ended when the offense was stuffed at the line on a fourth-and-2.

That missed opportunity turned into Kisner's chance to take over the game.

The junior took his team 70 yards up the field — 57 of which came from him — and ran it in from 9 yards out to extend the lead to 24-7 with 3:44 remaining in the third, a score that effectively put the game out of reach.

"You have to take advantage of your opponent turning the ball over," Peterman said.

"We've got to correct some things, but we'll go right back to work tomorrow."

Craig Meyer: and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.

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