In the shadows of steel, along Pittsburgh’s riverbanks and beside family-run farm fields, are towns where football is king.

It’s a part of Western Pennsylvania’s topography, its heartbeat, and its identity.

Over eight weeks, I photographed 113 high school teams throughout the region that were practicing for their upcoming season.

From the Mon Valley to Lawrence County, Leechburg to Greensburg and “The Rack,” “The Pit,” and “The House,” my trek proved that tradition is still treasured here.

Some players cross themselves while others curse aloud their devotion to the game. Another season beckons that drive to win.

Win or lose, football personifies its steel grit.

 

The sun sets as California Area football players work on their running plays during practice on Thursday, July 25, 2019, at California Area High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Charleroi’s Ethan Codeluppi keeps his eye on the ball as he makes a catch during a 7-on-7 scrimmage on Tuesday, June 18, 2019, at Charleroi Area High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

A partial rainbow appears as Thomas Jefferson quarterback Shane Stump throws a pass during practice on Wednesday, July 3, 2019, at Thomas Jefferson High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Penn Hills’ Jamie Tigner adjusts his dog tag in between sprints during practice on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, in the Bill Fralic Athletic Center at Penn Hills High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Westinghouse’s Kahlil Jeter cools off during practice on Wednesday, June 26, 2019, at Westinghouse High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Sweat flies as USO’s Michael Snowden receives a hand off from quarterback Messiah Wilkerson during practice on Monday, July 29, 2019, at Obama Academy’s practice field. USO is University Prep, Sci-Tech and Obama Academy. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Washington football players run a play during practice on Thursday, July 18, 2019 at Washington High School Stadium. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

The cross necklace of Baldwin’s Angelo Priore swings against his tattooed chest as he runs through a cone drill during practice on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 at Baldwin High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Freeport’s Garrett King works out with battle ropes during their circuit training on Friday, June 7, 2019, outside of Freeport Area High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Moon head football coach Ryan Linn holds his 6-week-old son Swade as the team gathers for a cheer during practice on Tuesday, June 18, 2019, at Moon Area High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Lyvia Morgan, 6, daughter of Plum head coach Matt Morgan, works on her cheerleading during football practice on Wednesday, June 26, 2019, at Plum High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

A hoverfly flies near Union lineman Aaron Gunn as he works out during practice on Monday, July 22, 2019 at Socs Roussos Stadium in Union Township, Lawrence County. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

North Catholic head coach Pat O’Shea leads his team during practice on Tuesday, July 23, 2019 at North Catholic High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Carmichaels quarterback Kevin Kelly, center, squints as he looks at a playbook during practice on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, at Carmichaels Area High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Neshannock football player Jeremy “Boom” Nativio takes his helmet off after practice on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, at the practice field behind their high school. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Allderdice offensive and defensive line coach Mario Watkins leads his players through a hill workout on the “A” during practice on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, at the practice field behind Taylor Allderdice High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Aliquippa’s Isaiah Towler readies himself on the line before suicide sprints during practice on Wednesday, July 24, 2019, at Aliquippa High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Perry assistant coach Linwood Snyder squirts water onto Santana Kyser as he runs during practice on Thursday, July 25, 2019, at Perry Traditional Academy’s practice field behind Richard Way. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Sto-Rox’s Myeir Woodard reacts during a lifting session on Wednesday, July 31, 2019, at Sto-Rox High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Knoch’s Earnie Zilka receives a hug as Jimmy Johnson gathers his teammates for a cheer after their evening practice on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, at Knoch High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Carrick center Nate Elk checks his spacing with his fellow offensive linemen during practice on Wednesday, July 3, 2019, at Phillips Park in Carrick. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

The eyeglasses of North Catholic’s Carson Primrose fog up during practice on Tuesday, July 23, 2019 at North Catholic High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

A storm cloud past West Allegheny football players as they watch a 7-on-7 scrimmage on Thursday, June 20, 2019, at Chartiers-Houston Area High School. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

New Castle’s Malachi Sherman takes a break during a conditioning session on Monday, June 10, 2019, in “The Rack” at Taggart Stadium in New Castle. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Northgate lineman Vito Pascale stands under water shooting from a Bellevue Volunteer Fire Company truck after practice on Tuesday, July 23, 2019 at Northgate Junior-Senior High School. Bellevue VFC Lt. Jack Davin is the foster parent of football player Danelle Frazier. (Steph Chambers/Post-Gazette)

Comments