North Xtra: North Hills prepares for a rejuvenated Seneca Valley
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Seneca Valley could have folded after losing, 45-3, to WPIAL Class AAAA top-ranked North Allegheny in Week 3 of the season.
Instead, the Raiders responded like Rocky.
"I told the team each week is like a round in a heavyweight fight," Seneca Valley coach Don Holl said. "We may have gotten knocked down a few times in Round 3, but now we have to get up and come back for Round 4 and so on."
The Raiders came back with a vengeance, outscoring their opponents in their three games following the North Allegheny defeat, 147-21. That included a 34-7 win against Central Catholic in Week 5, becoming the first team all season to score a touchdown against the Vikings.
During the three-game winning streak, which has put Seneca Valley at 5-1 overall and 4-1 in the Northern Eight Conference, the Raiders' stars have shined.
Senior running back Forrest Barnes has run for 550 yards and 11 touchdowns in the three games, including a 305-yard, seven-touchdown performance in Week 4 against Connellsville.
Meanwhile, senior quarterback Jordan Brown has also stepped up, completing 24 of 37 for 431 yards and six touchdowns in his past three games. Brown's best game of the season came Friday, when he only had one incompletion in 10 attempts while throwing for 193 yards and three scores.
"The neat part about it is that, depending on what the defense is doing, we have different ways to attack," Holl said. "Forrest is going to have his games like a few weeks ago where it seems like every time he has the ball, it is in the open space. Then, other games teams will put an extra guy in the box and dare us to throw and Jordan will step up. Jordan is absolutely a great asset and is rounding into midseason form, which is good since it is midseason."
Tasked with stopping the Raiders this Friday will be North Hills. The Indians also enter the game with a 5-1 mark (3-1 in the Northern Eight Conference), with their only loss being a 14-0 defeat to Central Catholic in Week 2.
North Hills coach Jack McCurry knows the best way to slow down the Raiders' playmakers is to keep them standing on the sidelines.
"We need to keep the ball out of their hands," McCurry said. "So we're going to do some things to try and shorten the game."
The Indians have a trio of backs capable of doing that. Last week against Fox Chapel, Josh Hulbert and Jordan Blackmon both eclipsed the century mark on the ground. Hulbert, the team's leading rusher this season with 537 yards, had 115 rushing yards on 18 carries against the Foxes, while Jordan Blackmon had 105 yards on just 10 carries.
Blackmon has 234 yards on the ground this year, but missed a few contests with an injury incurred against Central Catholic. Teammate Tyler Reddick, who has 313 yards rushing, also has missed some time due to injury this season.
But the trio should be healthy as they look to grind away against a Raiders defense that has allowed just seven points in its past two games against Central Catholic and Shaler Area.
"It's hard to lose when you only give up seven points and you can't lose when you don't give up any points," Holl said. "Our defense has been physical, tough and fundamentally sound. It's been encouraging."
If the Raiders can win Friday, they will have the inside track on second place in the conference, having already played North Allegheny and beaten Central Catholic (5-1, 4-1).
Central Catholic gets the top-ranked Tigers this week, while North Hills will play North Allegheny in the regular-season finale on Oct. 26. McCurry said the Tigers have no equal in the league.
"This is definitely a split with the teams at the top of our conference," McCurry said. "We're going to just go out there and try and beat somebody and see where we fall, but we're not in the same league as North Allegheny."
Kickoff for Friday's game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Indians' Martorelli Stadium.
• Game: Seneca Valley at North Hills.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
• Where: Martorelli Stadium.
• Skinny: The winner has the inside track on second place in the conference.