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North Hills Duo Keys Second Straight Comeback Win

by Rick Smith, Nauticom Sports Network

Trailing New Castle (3-2) by one point midway through the fourth quarter last Friday evening, North Hills (5-0) turned to a familiar pair of players to pull out another WPIAL Quad North Conference victory. Indians' senior quarterback Todd Szramowski connected with tight end Andy Richardson for a 50 yard touchdown pass to give North Hills an 18-13 win over the Red Hurricanes before a standing room only crowd at North Hills' Martorelli Stadium.

It was the second straight week Szramowski and Richardson, a 6'6" 240 pound junior, teamed up to bring North Hills from behind for the win. A week earlier, the duo hooked up for two fourth quarter touchdown passes to give North Hills a 28-27 win over Seneca Valley.

"We like to give the fans their money's worth and keep them in their seats until the end," said North Hills head coach Jack McCurry with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

The win, combined with Shaler's loss at North Allegheny, lands North Hills all alone atop the Quad North standings with a 3-0 record. New Castle, North Allegheny, Seneca Valley, and Shaler are all tied for second place at 2-1.

After a scoreless first quarter, New Castle struck first as fullback Justin Sheldone, a 6' 205 pound senior, scored on an option pitch around right end with 8:13 remaining in the second quarter.

The score was set up by a Nick Marmo fumble recovery at midfield. The 6'6" 315 pound senior nose tackle has made an early commitment to play for Penn State next season. Marmo, who plays guard on offense for head coach Gary Schooley's 'Canes, will most likely play on the offensive line at Happy Valley.

"Marmo's in a league by himself," said McCurry. "We just tried to contain him, but he made some great plays."

North Hills answered three minutes later with its own 7 play, 55 yard drive that culminated with an 11 yard touchdown run by senior running back Brian Stumpf, his sixth of the campaign. The extra point attempt was blocked and New Castle had a 7-6 lead.

Stumpf set the Indians up with good field position on their next possession with a 38 yard punt return to the New Castle 36 yard line. The 5'10" 170 pounder finished the game with 202 all-purpose yards.

Four plays later, Szramowski gave North Hills a 12-7 lead with a 7 yard scamper. Szramowski, a 6' 185 pound senior, rushed for 85 yards and completed 7 of 13 passes for 182 yards on the evening.

"We knew they were going to blitz inside a lot. I rolled out a lot so I had the option to go to my receivers or run," said Szramowski.

"Our quarterback has the ability to make plays and improvise," said McCurry. "We asked him to do that tonight".

The two point conversion run failed and the Indians led by 5 points at the intermission.

On break from Penn State, LaVar Arrington signs autographs on home turf at half-time.

On its second possession of the third quarter, New Castle regained the lead with a grind-it-out 14 play, 7+ minute, 80 yard drive with tailback John Rosati as the catalyst. The 5'11" 180 pound senior led the 'Canes with 97 yards rushing on 14 carries. Rosati was named the Nauticom Sports Network's player of the game for New Castle for his efforts.

Sheldone finished off the drive with a one yard touchdown plunge, his ninth of the season. New Castle's attempt at the two point conversion failed and the score remained 13-12.

North Hills then fashioned its own 80 yard drive that began with 7:16 remaining in the fourth quarter. It took North Hills just four plays to move the ball to midfield and set up the Szramowsi to Richardson heroics.

The big tight end, who should be a blue chip recruit next season, found a seam at the New Castle 24 yard line and caught a perfect strike from Szramowski. Richardson, NSN's game MVP for North Hills, then showed amazing agility as he eluded one tackler and hurdled another on his way to the end zone.

"I told the coaches on the sideline that the play was open. I told them that I can get that," said Richardson.

"We're a young team," said McCurry. "We have nine underclassmen on offense. They're getting better. If they continue to improve, we'll be in the hunt at the end of the year."

The Rowdie Rooters cheer-on the Indians from the cheap seats on the hill.