Baldwin readies for powerhouse Upper St. Clair in homecoming tilt
By Ray Fisher
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The Baldwin football team defeated rival Mt. Lebanon last week for the first time in nine years, 20-19, in overtime.
The Fighting Highlanders' reward?
A home game at 7:30 p.m. Friday against perennial WPIAL Class AAAA power Upper St. Clair.
The Panthers will invade Baldwin Stadium with a 4-0 overall record and a 4-0 mark in the Quad Central Conference.
And it is Baldwin High School's homecoming game for 2013.
Upper St. Clair is ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA in the Trib Total Media high school football rankings, and No. 3 in the state according to Pennsylvania Football News.
“Upper St. Clair is a fantastic program, and coach (Jim) Render has them playing great football as always,” Pete Wagner, Baldwin's head coach, said. “They have a handful of really talented players, as well as an extremely strong supporting cast.
“St. Clair has always shown the ability to maximize any opportunity (that is) presented. It is critical that we execute in all three phases of the game, and make our possessions count.”
The Panthers dismantled Penn Hills last week, 35-0, and haven't allowed a point since the first week of the 2013 season. USC has given up just 10 points this year.
Penn Hills entered the game with Quad-A's top rushing attack, and a 36 ppg scoring average, but managed only 41 yards on 29 tries. In the first half, USC ran for 169 yards while the Indians had none.
USC amassed 315 yards on the ground against Penn Hills, including 114 on 23 carries by senior tailback Trevor Morrow.
Senior quarterback/linebacker Joe Repischak scored on runs of 3, 15 and 7 yards in the first half for the Panthers.
USC has blanked Canon-McMillan, 47-0; Peters Township, 41-0; and Penn Hills since its 16-10 win at Woodland Hills.
Baldwin (2-2, 2-2) has beaten Plum, 38-6; and Mt. Lebanon, while losing to Peters Township, 33-28; and Penn Hills, 37-21.
Last week, Baldwin edged Mt. Lebanon (1-3, 1-2) in overtime on junior Prajal Sharma's successful PAT kick.
Mt. Lebanon tied the game on a 22-yard field goal by junior Rob Costantino with 2:28 left in the fourth frame — after Baldwin had taken a 13-10 lead on a 6-yard TD pass by junior quarterback Doug Altavilla to his younger brother, sophomore Nick Altavilla, at the 3:11 mark.
In the overtime session, Mt. Lebanon's junior wideout Shane Lefever scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Kellan Stout, but the Blue Devils failed to convert their PAT kick.
Doug Altavilla then connected with senior wide receiver Luke Smorey on a 10-yard touchdown toss, setting up Sharma's dramatic extra point.
“Our team fought very hard on the road (last) week,” Wagner said. “The night had many twists and turns, but our kids were resilient. I was extremely happy with the quality of work, and more importantly the effort in practice (the previous week).”
Stout passed for 122 yards and two touchdowns for Mt. Lebanon, while senior tailback Jake Rolfsen finished with 182 yards on 25 carries.
Smorey, the leading receiver in the WPIAL, ended up with five catches for 47 yards and two touchdowns.
He has 21 receptions for 455 yards and seven touchdowns on the season.
Doug Altavilla has passed for 724 yards and nine touchdowns this year.
Nick Altavilla, sophomore Vince Persichetti and senior Bill Howley had two receptions apiece against Mt. Lebanon, while seniors Nick Barca and Justin Zinsmeister both had one.
“It was a battle,” Barca said. “They've got some big boys; we played physical. You just do your job and wrap up on defense.”
Barca, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound running back/defensive back, is looking forward to the challenge the Panthers will provide in this week's homecoming game.
“They are big, and well-coached. They don't make many mistakes,” he said.
“Everybody's going to have to give 100, 110 percent. We need to connect with big plays. All it takes is a couple of big plays in the game. And you can't make mistakes and shoot yourself in the foot. In a couple of games (this season), we kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Senior Jake Elk led the Fighting Highlanders defensively from his linebacker position with a game-high 11 tackles, including seven solo stops.
Elk was complemented by Zinsmeister, with 7 tackles (2 sacks), and junior Cameron Zandier; along with junior Donnie West, Nick Altavilla, Ruscitto, and juniors Davontae Evans and Josh Zinsmeister.
Baldwin did not commit a turnover in the game.
Upper St. Clair defeated the Fighting Highlanders last season, 47-6.
CHAR.-HOUSTON at BRENTWOOD 7:30 p.m. Friday
Brentwood returns home following three consecutive games on the road.
The Spartans (2-3, 2-2) lost to Fort Cherry last week in a Black Hills Conference game, 35-14, while Chartiers-Houston (4-1, 3-1) defeated Conemaugh in a nonconference matchup, 31-16.
Brentwood junior quarterback Connor McWilliams completed 19 of 36 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns last week. On the season, he has thrown for 659 yards and four scores.
The Spartans' receiving corps is led by juniors Bill Madeja, with 15 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns, and Tyler Paranzino, with 12 catches for 173 yards and one touchdown.
Eight other players have reeled in passes for the Spartans this year.
They are sophomore Pat Carr (9-45); seniors Matt Yasko, David Bushmen and Justin Vickless, with two receptions apiece; and seniors Jack Murano, Dallas Bowie and Ryan Shortley; and freshman Tayron Kyser, with one catch apiece.
Brentwood clipped the Buccaneers last season, 14-7.
TJ at ALBERT GALLATIN 7:30 p.m. Friday
Thomas Jefferson (4-0, 3-0) rolled past Trinity last week, 44-7, while Albert Gallatin (2-2, 1-2) lost at West Mifflin, 56-12.
Albert Gallatin has defeated Derry in a nonconference game, 52-0, and Trinity in conference action, 28-14.
The Colonials' season-opening victory against Derry snapped an 18-game losing streak that covered two years.
Thomas Jefferson pounded Albert Gallatin last year, 50-0, as the Colonials finished with a 0-9 overall record.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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