After a 5-5 season in 2013 and nearly winning its first-round playoff game, the Penn Hills football team is ready to turn the page this year.
Entering their Week 1 contest against Class AAAA Southeastern Conference foe Upper St. Clair, not many people gave the Indians a chance against last year's conference champions. Many WPIAL observers were shocked when they found out the Indians ran past the Panthers, 31-13 ... but not the Penn Hills players.
"We want people to start thinking that Penn Hills should win," Indians coach John Peterman said. "Our players were excited to see we were opening up with USC. They are expecting to win football games."
Penn Hills, which is known for its explosive running game, found gaps throughout the Panthers defense. Leading the way was junior quarterback Bill Kisner. Kisner finished the game with 104 rushing yards on 17 carries and one touchdown.
"For me, it was pretty cool," Kisner said. "To be honest, I expected nothing but a win from us. We still have things to work on but it felt really nice to get that win."
Kisner is in his second year as the starting quarterback for the Indians and has shown he knows what it takes to be a leader. In the offseason, instead of working on his reads in the run game, he worked tirelessly on improving his passing.
"Just a couple of passes [against Upper St. Clair] that I completed that kept the defense honest," Kisner said. "I didn't feel like I was in a rush. I want to focus on completing more passes and not having teams load the box as much [against the run]. I'm not worried about running the ball. I feel like we have the best rushing team in the WPIAL.
"I worked on the mechanics every day. Most teams think with me being a mobile quarterback, I won't stay in the pocket. The little details really make a big difference."
With Kisner becoming a better pocket passer, it has really opened up more options in the playbook for the Indians.
"Last year as a sophomore was almost all set play calls for Kisner," Peterman said. "It is his second year starting and he is reading the defense and making decisions on the plays being run."
Through the offseason and training camp and Week 1 of the season, Kisner's leadership has been evident to his coaches and teammates and if he keeps this up, the whole WPIAL will take notice.
"He is becoming a leader," Peterman said. "He didn't know what he was able to do last year and now he is stepping up and taking charge of the huddle and that's what a quarterback needs to do."
Like any team, Penn Hills' goal is to win the WPIAL championship but knows that is a long way away. For now, all their concentration is on Friday night at Canon-McMillan.
"We have to get better every day," Peterman said. "We have to keep improving. We have to see where the season takes us."
For Kisner, the confidence he has in himself and his teammates is going to help him achieve both his individual goals but most importantly the ultimate goal of becoming a champion.
"We always had swagger," Kisner said. "We had a couple down years but that swagger never left. We all know what we have and we expect to win against anyone we face.
"My goals for this season is to win. That's just the main goal. Everything else is little milestone goals like becoming a 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard passer. Getting that ring on my finger is the main goal whether it is a good win or an ugly win.
"It would be nice to win the [conference title] but winning the WPIAL is our goal. We are just going to take one week at a time and treat every team like we did Upper St. Clair."