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Fans Return To Yuhas-McGinley Stadium To Watch Penn Hills-North Hills Football Game

PENN HILLS, Pa. (KDKA) - Fans were allowed to attend Penn Hills' homecoming game against North Hills, and safety was a top priority.

"That's what high school football is all about: the community, the school district, the students, the whole general body, bringing everyone together," said Penn Hills football coach Jon LeDonne.

Penn Hills police and security officers were on hand at Yuhas-McGinley Stadium on Friday. Backpacks and large bags were not allowed. Small bags were searched, and everyone was wanded. Gates closed after halftime, and there was no re-entry.

Only adults could buy tickets at the gate, and students had to buy them during pre-sale. Most of these security measures have been in place at games in the past, except for the pre-sale student tickets.

HIGH SCHOOL football fans
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

"We want everyone to be safe," said Penn Hills Athletic Director Stephanie Strauss. "We have great police officers here and security, 'YES' staff and coaches helping, got a lot of support to make it a good environment."

Penn Hills' game against Woodland Hills on Sept. 17 had no spectators because of safety concerns after a shooting at Haunted Hills Hayride in North Versailles on Sept. 11. A Penn Hills student was injured, and Central Catholic student Steven Eason was killed.

LeDonne has been focused on being there for his players after the tragedy.

"We spend a lot of time talking about making decisions and choices and sometimes consequences. But at the end of the day, we can't be with them 24 hours a day so just making the right choices and decisions, who you're hanging out with and what you're doing," coach LeDonne said.

Before Friday night's game, author and educator Dr. Marck Abraham shared inspiration with the team. He is traveling to different cities to speak with the youth about his new book "What Success Looks Like: Increasing High School Graduation Rates Among Males of Color."

"You have to first start having a vision and say, 'This is where I want to be when I get older' and have faith that it's possible and you can have a better life. If you start to think that and believe that, it keeps you out of trouble and keeps you out of the streets," Dr. Abraham said.

Some parents and students said having everyone back in the stadium again could help the Indians move forward.

"It's my last year, everyone would have more fun and less depressed," Penn Hills High School senior Meili Nanthavong said.

"I hope we go back to some sort of normalcy and get to enjoy ourselves more," Penn Hills senior Braden Scarver said.

"It feels good, it's really a sense of relief, sense of safety here. ... it's more community. We've come together with the senseless tragedies that have been happening almost every week. Today, we came together as a community, as a school, as leaders to be here for these kids, rally around them that this is not their reality, what they see in the streets, but we are as a community," said Qiana Buckner, a Penn Hills parent.

Penn Hills' athletic director said the school wants to share resources with students who have been impacted by violence.

Penn Hills beat North Hills 35-29.

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