Wolverines continue postseason success vs. N. Hills
Woodland Hills and North Hills have a storied history, and they added another wild chapter Friday night.
This time, the No. 7 Wolverines used tough defense and an opportunistic offense to defeat No. 10 North Hills, 27-7, Friday in a Class AAAA first-round playoff game at The Wolvarena in Turtle Creek.
Woodland Hills (8-2) will meet No. 2 Gateway in the quarterfinals next week.
This marked the fifth postseason meeting between the Wolverines and Indians. Woodland Hills leads the series, 4-1. North Hills' lone victory came in 1993, the last season the Indians won a WPIAL championship.
This game was a closely contested defensive struggle mired with penalties and sloppy play. The teams combined for 19 penalties totaling 215 yards.
“It's always a tough game when you're playing North Hills,” said Woodland Hills coach George Novak. “Coach (Jack) McCurry is one of the best coaches around. It was a lot closer than the score (indicates).”
Woodland Hills seemed primed to take control of the game in the second half. Woodland Hills' Jawan Turner recovered a North Hills fumble on the third play of the third quarter, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by freshman Miles Sanders that gave the Wolverines a 14-0 lead.
On Woodland Hills' next possession, the Indians' Corey Bopp returned a fumble 28 yards to cut the lead to 14-7.
But the Woodland Hills defense stifled North Hills (6-4) for the remainder of the night. The Wolverines held the Indians to 73 total yards.
Woodland Hills was led by Sanders' 115 yards rushing.
“He's not a freshman anymore,” Novak said. “He's a junior now — a junior in football. He's done a great job for us.”
North Hills had a golden opportunity to strike first early in the second quarter. The Indians' Josh Hulbert recovered an Alex Beasley fumble to give North Hills the ball at the Woodland Hills 33. But the Indians lost nine yards and punted.
On the ensuing possession, Woodland Hills quarterback Cody McClelland hit Ryan Welsh on a 34-yard touchdown pass to give the Wolverines a 7-0 lead.
Woodland Hills will meet another familiar opponent in Gateway. Woodland Hills defeated the Gators, 10-0, to claim the 2009 WPIAL title.
“We still could get better,” Novak said. “We still make a lot of mistakes. Now it's a mind game. All the teams are good. It's who figures out the other team.”
Ray Judy is a freelance writer.