Sign of Greatness

With summer winding down and kids heading back to school, one of the great traditions of this region – Friday night high school football – is about to kick off for another year. Soon cars will jam the streets around Martorelli Stadium in the North Hills searching for the elusive parking spot needed before die-hard Indians fans can head off to watch the game.

One of the roadside signs they used to see on their way to the field now hangs in the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.

North Hills High School 1987 Sign
The sign reads: Welcome to Ross Township / Home of North Hills Indians / No. 1 High School Football Team in the U.S.A. /1987

Named the number one team in the country during the preseason, the Indians went 13-0 for the 1987 season, outscoring their opponents 435-20 with 11 shutouts to their credit. Coach Jack McCurry, also named National High School Coach of the Year that season, has referred to that team as “intense…the complete team.”

North Hills Indians football helmet
North Hills Indians football helmet on display in the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.

The team overpowered Central Catholic 36-0 and North Allegheny 28-0 in the WPIAL AAAA playoffs enroute to a championship game against Mt. Lebanon. North Hills took the field at Three Rivers Stadium and never looked back, capping their undefeated season with a decisive 21-0 win against the Blue Devils.

USA Today upheld the Indians #1 ranking and senior tight end/linebacker Eric Renkey was named a Parade All-American. His teammate Pat Carey recently took over as the North Hills coach when Jack McCurry retired after 35 seasons. Carey remembers the team as, “special… I don’t know if anyone will put together a team like that again.”

The pundits agree: in 1999 when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked 125 WPIAL coaches to name the best team of the past 25 years, no other team came close. More recently the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review counted the 1987 Indians among the Top Ten teams of the first 100 years of WPIAL football.

The folks in the North Hills knew it all along – they saw the signs!

Anne Madarasz is the Museum Division Director & Co-Director of the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.

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