JACKSON TWP — One of the goals Don Holl had when he took over as head football coach at Seneca Valley was to change the expectations surrounding the program.
In the 13 years prior to his arrival, the Raiders qualified for the WPIAL playoffs just four times. In fact, the program, which began in 1964, had never made the postseason in back-to-back seasons.
With last week's 49-0 victory over Shaler, the Raiders (5-1, 4-1) are now a lock for playing in November for the second straight season.
“What I would like it to say is that the expectation is we're consistently going to find a way into the postseason,” said Holl. “There's a long way to go to determine (our seed) in the playoffs, but we're excited about being there. It's a credit to our kids.”
Its latest win was SV's first shutout of a conference foe since defeating Butler 32-0 in 2002.
The Raiders' focus now is to put themselves in a good position once the playoffs begin.
Two of the team's three remaining regular season games are Northern Eight Conference clashes. The first of those is Friday when SV travels south for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at North Hills' Martorelli Stadium.
The Indians (5-1, 3-1) defeated Fox Chapel last week 31-7. The lone defeat for North Hills this season was a 14-0 setback to Central Catholic Sept. 7.
The team's offense is led by senior running back Josh Hulbert, who has rushed for over 500 yards on the season and ran for two scores last week (14, 22).
Both Hulbert (115) and senior Jordan Blackmon (105) both ended the game with over 100 yards on the ground.
The Indians rely heavily on their ground game, as senior quarterback Brian Johnson is averaging just over 10 pass attempts per game.
The defense is stingy, as North Hills has allowed just 63 points all season.
“I have the utmost respect for (head coach) Jack McCurry and (assistant) Pat Carey,” said Holl. “Coach McCurry basically handles the offense and Pat does a great job with the defense. They're both outstanding and their team is talented and scrappy.
“But as a competitor, you want to compete against good football minds.”
Holl admits that most opposing defenses have tried to take away the Raiders' run game this season, but senior Forrest Barnes still has four 100-yard games to his credit. That includes 105 yards last week on just 11 carries.
“A lot of times, I think defenses may try running something they're not used to in an effort to slow us down on the ground,” said Holl. “Obviously, we're comfortable in what we're running on offense, and if they are not on defense, we like our chances in that situation.”
One underclassman making an impact in all three phases of the game is T.J. Holl.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound sophomore backs up Jon Dorogy in both punt and kickoff returns, has broken into the starting lineup as a free safety and has caught four passes for 98 yards and a touchdown as a receiver.
“Our message to the younger guys is that you may not know when you'll get a shot, but when you do, it's your chance to go out and perform,” said Holl. “We have several young players doing well — Mason Dehart (RB/LB), Chad Izenas (K) and Tyler Hudanick (OL).”
Seneca Valley defeated host North Hills last year 21-14.