WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal matchup: Woodland Hills vs. Upper St. Clair
Class AAAA semifinal: Woodland Hills (9-2) vs. Upper St. Clair (10-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Baldwin Stadium
There is shutdown defense, then there is what Upper St. Clair has been playing.
Upper St. Clair is the only team in the WPIAL playoffs in any classification not to allow a postseason point, and the Panthers are going to play a Wolverines squad they defeated by 19 in the Aug. 31 season opener. It will be the first time the two will have played each other in the postseason since Woodland Hills won in the 2005 quarterfinals.
“It's hard for both of us to play a team we've played before, but you look at what they did well against you before and how they've done in their recent games because they've evolved to where they're at,” Woodland Hills coach George Novak said. “Playing Upper St. Clair ... they're one of the best defenses in the WPIAL year in and year out, and their offense, with all its motions, is tough to prepare for.”
Woodland Hills also will be handcuffed a bit. The Wolverines will play without one of their top offensive weapons, freshman running back Miles Sanders, who suffered an undisclosed injury last week and already has been ruled out against Upper St. Clair.
Sanders gained 17 yards in the first meeting.
“We threw the ball a little on them, but we weren't able to run the ball at all,” Novak said. “We won't have Miles this week, so we'll let him take the week off and see what happens.”
Panthers quarterback Pete Coughlin ran for three fourth-quarter touchdowns in the first game between the teams, but Woodland Hills is coming off one of its best defensive performances of the season. It held the Gateway rushing attack to minus-39 yards on 18 carries.
“When you're in the playoffs, every game's different, and against Gateway, our first objective was to stop the run and not let them throw deep on us,” Novak said. “We were able to contain their run, and they threw the ball 49 times on us. That was a lot of passing, but our secondary did a nice job and against St. Clair, it's going to be totally different.”