Penn Hills’ Mathis preps for breakout season
Hollis Mathis put up big numbers last season from his quarterback position and led Penn Hills to an 8-4 record in Class 6A, a 3-3 mark in the Northern Seven Conference and a trip to the WPIAL semifinals.
In almost every other conference in the WPIAL, he probably would’ve garnered first-team honors. But in the Northern Seven, first-team recognition went to Pine-Richland standout and Notre Dame commit Phil Jurkovec.
But that was of no issue to Mathis, a Howard commit, who was pleased with his performance last season. Things are looking up as his focus in workouts, in the weight room and in 7-on-7 games with Penn Hills and his Evolve club team all point toward more success for the Indians.
“I am really excited about the progression of our young players. Not only should we be able to play efficient this season with the seniors and the younger players, but Penn Hills will be in good hands after this season,” said Mathis, who will help guide Penn Hills in the revamped 5A class this fall.
Penn Hills will face Armstrong, Fox Chapel, Hampton, Kiski Area, Mars, North Hills and Shaler in conference play.
Mathis said he concentrated on getting bigger and stronger in the offseason knowing the physical nature of his position, and he added 10 pounds through weight training.
He said he also has focused on mechanics such as arm positioning and follow through to maximize distance and accuracy.
“I know I have the arm strength to throw with the best of them. If I can get those improvements in my mechanics down and get the reps in, I should be able to look really good,” he said.
Mathis said he feels his maturity as a quarterback, both with last year’s experience as a first-year starter and in offseason work, has improved and will serve him well.
“The decisions like check downs, throwing the ball away, when to get down and when to get out of bounds will help get us to where we want to be as a team,” he said.
While Mathis prepares for the start of the season - preseason practices begin in less than a month and the team’s Week Zero game against Steubenville (Ohio) is 41 days away - he does so knowing where he will be after his high school graduation.
Mathis made a connection with Howard offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brennan Marion, a Greensburg Salem graduate who recruits much of Pennsylvania, including the Pittsburgh region.
“It’s awesome to know where I will be going to college, but that gives me no excuse to be complacent in any way,” he said. “I’ve been working just as hard as if I had to go and play at Howard tomorrow.
“It was awesome getting to know the coaches at Howard and getting to know the people. It’s a really awesome place. It’s located close enough to home but also far away enough. The academic aspect will really challenge me. It’s the perfect situation for me.”
Penn Hills coach Jon LeDonne, who enters his second season, is excited to see Mathis take the next step.
“Last year was his first true varsity experience, and to be right behind Phil Jurkovic in a lot of the voting speaks volumes for how Hollis played and what he brought to the team,” LeDonne said. “Hollis is never satisfied with what he has done, and he knows there’s room for improvement in his game. He’s always working for more.”