Without Division I prospect, Woodland Hills hoping to adapt quickly

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 5:56 p.m.

Woodland Hills always seems to find a way to replace star players lost to graduation.

Things might be different in 2012.

A pair of third-year starters — senior linebacker Alex Beasley and senior lineman Jawan Turner — are among the few who are drawing collegiate attention for a program that, in 2011, had more players in the NFL than all but St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida.

“They're both six-footers, which probably a big reason why they're not recruited as much,” Woodland Hills coach George Novak said. “They're both very talented players and they're leaders, and they're going to be two of our top guys.”

Woodland Hills finished last season on a disappointing three-game losing streak, including a 28-21 loss to Mt. Lebanon in the opening round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs.

Things won't be much easier in 2012 after graduation gutted much of the team and the Wolverines didn't really have an opportunity to play a lot of their younger players in critical situations a year ago. That means Woodland Hills players will have to garner their much-needed game experience on the fly.

“We don't have a lot of experience on the offensive and defensive lines for the first time in a long time,” Novak said. “We have some experience at the skill positions, and it's kind of unique here because we do have a lot of competition at our skill positions.”

One player that already has earned his starting job is senior wide receiver Tom Greene, who played opposite University of Cincinnati freshman Shakim Alonzo in 2011.

Greene only caught six passes for 56 yards, but at 6-foot-3 has the kind of size that could make him an impact player in the passing game with new quarterback Cody McClelland.

“I think Tom learned from Shakim and just waited his turn because Shakim and (former quarterback Pat Menifee) had a special relationship because he always looked for Shakim first,” Novak said. “Now Cody is looking at him most of the time, and they're starting to have that same relationship.”

Another factor that doesn't work in the favor of a young team is the biennial realignment that eliminated an entire conference in Class AAAA and lumped all the teams together into three mega-sections. Because of the shift, teams will no longer have up to four nonconference games to start the season, but will instead jump right into conference games with postseason implications from Week 1.

“It was good before if you had a young team because you would have a chance to try some different things and develop players,” Novak said. “We have a lot of seniors every year, so it was a plus for us.”

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