Upper St. Clair rallies, holds off Mt. Lebanon
Upper St. Clair won by two points, but the outcome was closer than even a 21-19 score could indicate.
USC's Joe Repischak blocked a 32-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in Friday night's Quad Central victory over Mt. Lebanon, a game-saving play that came minutes after USC made a goal-line stand.
“I think this was maybe the best game ever played in this stadium,” said USC coach Jim Render of his team's home field. “Of course, I'm biased because we won.”
The rivals will share the conference title, but No. 4 USC (8-1, 7-1) should grab a higher seed than No. 3 Mt. Lebanon (7-2, 7-1) for the WPIAL playoffs when pairings are announced Monday.
USC scored three second-half touchdowns, including a 23-yard touchdown pass from Pete Coughlin to Mike McGuire that gave the Panthers a 21-17 lead with 5:50 left in the fourth quarter. The go-ahead score followed a 20-yard scoring run by Steve Mackowick and a 34-yard touchdown catch by Tim Witenske, both in the third quarter.
“We came out firing, and we just couldn't be stopped in the second half,” said Coughlin, who completed 4 of 7 passes for 75 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
But it was USC's defense that stole momentum.
The Panthers intercepted two third-quarter passes and held strong for a goal-line stand later in the fourth when Mt. Lebanon had first-and-goal at the 2. Doran Graham gained 1 yard on first down, and Tim Briercheck was stuffed on second. A third-down penalty moved Mt. Lebanon back to the 6, where Tyler Roth threw two incompletions.
The fourth-down pass intended for star wideout Troy Apke was disrupted by John Rutkowski in the end zone with 2:06 left.
“That was one of the best team efforts I've seen in a while,” Coughlin said.
USC took possession but managed just 5 yards on three runs. Leading 21-17 and punting from their own end zone, the Panthers intentionally took a safety by punting the ball backward through the end zone.
Roth, who completed 21 of 42 passes for 362 yards, two first-quarter touchdowns and three interceptions, led Mt. Lebanon on one more long drive. Beginning at the Mt. Lebanon 45, Roth reached USC's 15 in just four plays, including passes of 21 and 10 yards to Apke.
With 12 seconds left, the 32-yard first down kick by Dimitri Orfanopoulos was blocked.
“I was sick because I knew the kid was capable,” Render said. “I didn't even look, to tell you the truth. ... Then I heard the thud, then the yell.”
Mt. Lebanon scored on its first three possessions to take a 17-0 lead, beginning with two touchdown passes from Roth to Apke. The first was a 23-yard catch with 10:15 left in the first quarter. The second score, a 13-yarder with 3:41 left, gave the Blue Devils a 14-0 lead. Orfanopoulos made a 24-yard field goal on Mt. Lebanon's third possession.
But three of the Blue Devils' next four drives ended with interceptions thrown by Roth, who had tossed just one all season. Morgan Lee, John Loper and Rutkowski snagged the three turnovers.
Apke had eight catches for 136 yards. He and Roth already have broken eight of Mt. Lebanon's passing records this season in the multiple-receiver offense of first-year coach Mike Melnyk. Mt. Lebanon's only previous loss came against top-ranked North Allegheny.
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-5666.