| home | about us | search | links | contact

The One-Two Punch of Hood and Kirby
By Paul Paterra

Penn Hills' football coach Neil Gordon came into this season with a plan. He sought balance in the offense for the 1999 Indians. As the saying goes, "Seek and ye shall find." The Indians have that balanced attack that Gordon wanted for his team. Two main reasons for that balance are senior quarter-back Glenn Hood and senior tailback Melvin Kirby.

"Our goal going in was to be as balanced as we can, and that's what those two are really doing for us," Gordon said. Hood (6-1, 180) is in his second year as the Indians' starting signal caller, and is the only returning offensive starter from last season. Gordon, a coach well known for his conservative offenses, paid Hood the ultimate compli-ment. "I've never been a passer," Gordon said. "Glenn Hood has made me a passer. He's so impressive; he took an old goat and taught him some new tricks."

Hood's skills actually have Gordon opening up the offense a bit. In a game earlier this season, Hood threw 18 passes against North Allegheny. We opened up our offense a lot this year," Hood said. "That's helped us a lot. We can run the ball like we always do, and he's letting me throw the ball a little bit, and that can only help the team."

Kirby (5-9, 180) is the latest in a long line of talented Penn Hills running backs. Kirby has already rushed for 1,304 yards on 180 carries this season, for an impressive average of 7.2 yards a pop. Kirby has also contributed 18 touch-downs to the Indians' offense, and has more yards than any Quad-A back this season, with the exception of Con-nellsville's Marcus Furman.

"He's had a great season," Gordon said of Kirby. "There have been some nice holes, but there have been times when there haven't been nice holes, and he's still gotten yardage. He's improved his speed, and he's got great power." Kirby may have had his finest game of the season last Friday, in a 36-0 win over Indiana. He carried the ball 13 times for 164 yards, and scored four touchdowns. "Our line pulled together," Kirby said of his performance, mod-estly deflecting some of the credit. "We came out a little flat, but we knew we had to step it up, and we did."

Kirby's success is not a total surprise. He showed some promise last year, rushing for some 700 yards, and scoring seven touchdowns. He started early in the 1998 campaign, until Terrence Dean returned from injury. Even though Kirby may not have great size, he does have good strength. He can be tough to bring down. "Every time I get the ball, I at least make the first person miss," Kirby explained. "I think I'm a pretty strong runner."

The one-two punch of Hood and Kirby has also gone a long way toward helping the Indians amass a 9-0 record. "The season is going even better than we expected," Kirby said. "We thought we had a chance to win the confer-ence championship, but we didn't think we would be blowing people out like this."

Gordon said neither one of the pair is very vocal, but each is an excellent leader. "Neither of them talk a lot, so they're not the leaders that are going to be screaming up and down the field," Gordon said. "Glenn's as quiet a kid as there ever was. It's leadership by example. When Glenn steps in the huddle, the other guys shut up."

Both Hood and Kirby have their sights set on college football, and each has been contacted by a host of schools. Hood, who has 4.6 speed, said he has drawn interest from such schools as Connecticut, West Virginia, Richmond, Syracuse, Bowling Green and the University of Pittsburgh. "I'd like to play quarterback; but it doesn't matter; I just want to play," Hood said. 'The kid's a Division I player all the way," Gordon said of Hood. "He's got the strength of arm, he's a great athlete, and he's handled our complicated system. He's very calm and reads defenses well.

Kirby, a 4.4 sprinter, said Temple, Rutgers and the University of Pittsburgh have contacted him. "If I was a Divi-sion I coach, I'd take him," Gordon said of Kirby. "I don't think a tailback's size is important. He tucks himself in behind those big linemen, and makes his breaks from there. That's what backs are doing on Saturdays and Sundays now."

College will have to wait a bit. Kirby, Hood and company have other matters that need their attention right now. First and foremost will be Friday's showdown with archrival Woodland Hills. The Wolverines also are undefeated. Woodland Hills and Penn Hills have been the top two ranked teams in Quad-A throughout much of the season. "That's going to be a big game for us," Hood said. "That's what we wanted. I wanted them to win (against McKeesport Saturday), so they could be undefeated. I'm looking forward to it. The whole team's looking forward to it. This is why we play football…games like this."