WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal preview: Upper St. Clair vs. Woodland Hills
CLASS AAAA SEMIFINALS
NO. 1 UPPER ST. CLAIR (11-0) vs. NO. 4 WOODLAND HILLS (9-2)7:30 p.m. Friday at Baldwin Stadium
It's a battle of titanic football programs and their coaches to match.
Top-seeded and unbeaten Upper St. Clair (11-0), guided by Jim Render, the WPIAL's all-time leader with 375 coaching victories, squares off against fourth-seeded Woodland Hills (9-2) and coach George Novak, who ranks fourth with 277, in the Class AAAA semifinals on Friday night at Baldwin.
USC and Render got the best of Woodland Hills and Novak, 16-10, in the regular-season opener, the first of two consecutive losses by the Wolverines. Woodland Hills since has won nine in a row and were runner-up to the Quad Central-winning Panthers.
It was a measure of revenge for Upper St. Clair after losing to Woodland Hills in the 2012 semifinals, 42-20.
“From 1988-2012, the two of us have been in the finals 20 times,” Render said. “That's interesting, and we're playing in the semifinals again, so one of us is going to go to the finals again. That speaks pretty good for both programs.”
Though it is a long way back to that Aug. 30 opener, neither coach has forgotten the dogfight their teams put up at Woodland Hills.
“They're very good defensively; well-coached,” Novak said of USC. “They have one of the top defenses in the state.”
After giving up 10 points in the opener to Woodland Hills, the Panthers posted five consecutive shutouts and 6 of 7 before allowing just one touchdown in the regular-season finale against rival Mt. Lebanon.
USC has given up just 66 points in 11 games.
— Dave Mackall