Upper St. Clair stuns Woodland Hills, 16-10
TribLIVE Sports Videos
With little more than 4 minutes left, Upper St. Clair recovered a fumble to halt Woodland Hills' potential game-winning drive.
With 24 seconds left, it happened again.
Against a team considered by some as the best in the state, USC's Trevor Morrow and Mac Pope recovered fumbles less than 4 minutes apart in the closing moments of Friday night's 16-10 season-opening victory at the Wolvarena.
In a meeting of evenly matched teams with title aspirations, the difference was slim.
“I kept thinking to myself, they haven't made a mistake yet,” USC coach Jim Render said. “And then they made one. They're a well-coached team and they've got talent. With cramping and a lack of offense, we were very fortunate.”
The teams combined for just three points in the second half, a 27-yard field goal by Donald Cassidy in the third quarter. USC's offense was held scoreless in the second half, yet the Panthers still won with defense.
The two turnovers halted consecutive Woodland Hills drives that had crossed midfield.
“The thing about it is, I thought we adjusted to the speed,” Render said. “We can't simulate that speed in practice. After the first touchdown we settled down and kept our composure.”
USC's defense had a number of stars. Ben Southorn knocked down two passes in the end zone when Woodland Hills was inside the 10, teaming with Morgan Lee and Stephen Mackowick to solidify the secondary. Rori Blair blocked a punt through the end zone for a safety. Robert Plummer had a sack on third down and Blair added another.
Woodland Hills sophomore Miles Sanders rushed for 101 yards on 11 carries and scored a 5-yard touchdown in the first quarter. But after that, Woodland Hills never again reached the end zone.
USC scored all of its points in the second quarter. A 1-yard touchdown run by Mac Pope and a 24-yarder by Joe Repischak came on consecutive possessions. In between was Blair's blocked-punt safety.
With 4:32 left in the second quarter, USC led, 16-7.
“They got turnovers,” Woodland Hills coach George Novak said. “The fumbles and blocked punt, that was nine points. You can't make those kind of mistakes against good football teams.”
Time of possession (24:29-23:44) and total yards (203-194) were nearly identical, but the Panthers found defensive stops when they needed them most. USC also had 62-yard punt by Jesse Slinger between the two recovered fumbles.
“I was very proud of our special teams,” Render said. “You could probably build a pretty good case that they helped us win the game.”
Woodland Hills' last possession ended near midfield when a snap bounced past quarterback Harry Randall. One possession earlier, Randall was hit and fumbled in USC territory.
This was the third time in about 12 months that these teams have met. Upper St. Clair won last year's regular-season opener, 31-12. Woodland Hills won the rematch in the WPIAL semifinals, 42-20, by using USC turnovers to score the first 21 points.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- High school notebook: WPIAL adjusts to accommodate Armstrong merger
- Pine-Richland falls short in PIAA Class AAAA final
- Close loss in title game cannot diminish Clairton’s ‘great season’
- High school notebook: Records tumble during PIAA football title games
- WPIAL’s Top 10 football champions of all time
- McKeesport football team left it all on the field this season
- Pine-Richland has new look for defending champ St. Joseph’s Prep