N.A. brings home 3rd straight WPIAL title
TribLIVE Sports Videos
North Allegheny's locker room was rather subdued after Friday's victory — until coach Art Walker entered and questioned the mood.
“Why's it so quiet?”
With one smiling shout, the music grew louder, the atmosphere grew livelier and the weary Tigers celebrated their third consecutive WPIAL Class AAAA championship at Heinz Field, 21-14 winners over Woodland Hills.
It was their time once again.
“There is absolutely no thought of ever being tired of being here,” said Walker, whose team became the first to win three straight Quad-A titles.
“(Winning titles in 2010 and 2011) kind of taught the senior class that it's expected,” said senior Zach Lyon, who caught two touchdown passes. “That's the only thing we know.”
No. 1 North Allegheny (12-0) built a 21-14 lead with three first-half touchdown passes by senior Mack Leftwich, including one that capped a three-play, 82-yard drive just 45 seconds before halftime. But the Tigers needed a second-half shutout from the defense to keep No. 7 Woodland Hills (10-3) from stealing its history-making moment.
“That's been kind of the theme with our defense: If we have a lead at halftime, they take it personal,” Walker said. “If we shut them out, we're going to win. The offense doesn't need to do another thing. That's how they want it to be.”
Leftwich did just enough. The Stephen F. Austin recruit completed 13 of 23 passes for 219 yards and threw two touchdown passes to Lyon (44 and 5 yards) and a 32-yarder to Gregg Garrity.
The first to Lyon gave NA a 7-0 lead on its opening possession, and the second created a 14-14 tie. The Tigers took a 21-14 halftime lead on the pass to Garrity, which followed a 50-yard catch by junior Elijah Zeise.
“I was surprised how many points were scored in the first half,” Woodland Hills coach George Novak said. “Give them credit. They had a great passing game on us.”
North Allegheny's key defensive stand came early in the fourth, when Woodland Hills had a first-and-goal at the 4. Three runs netted minus-2 yards. On fourth down with 9:47 left, Woodland Hills' Cody McClelland threw an incomplete pass that bounced short of wideout Khalil Harper in the end zone.
The Wolverines had two more chances to score a game-tying touchdown, but neither drive reached farther than North Allegheny's 37. Another opportunity ended with a muffed punt near midfield, one of three Woodland Hills turnovers; NA's Chas Smith recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass, both in the second quarter.
McClelland completed 8 of 22 passes for 163 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown to Tom Greene in the first quarter that created a 7-7 tie. A 1-yard touchdown run by freshman Miles Sanders gave Woodland Hills a 14-7 lead 8:23 before halftime.
Sanders, who rushed 17 times for 97 yards and caught two passes for 50, was carried by stretcher from the field in the fourth quarter with a sprained neck. He was treated and released from the hospital, Novak said. Sanders was injured with 3:04 left, when a tackle drove him head-first into the ground on a 14-yard run.
After an extended delay, McClelland threw incomplete on Woodland Hills' final four plays, including a fourth-down pass that Harper caught out of bounds with 2:33 left.
With 1:10 left, Woodland Hills nearly regained possession when NA faced fourth-and-5, but an offside penalty allowed the Tigers to consume those final seconds.
NA's measured postgame response could be explained a few ways. The players have added another goal, believing they can win a second state championship in three seasons.
“We made history,” senior Pat Kugler said, “but it's not done now. It's a great feeling, but we've got to move on.”
But there was more. These Tigers had just played their closest game this season, an exhausting 47-minute performance that wasn't decided until the final minute.
“They had to give everything they had to get another game,” Walker said.
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 roundup: Canon-McMillan tops Peters Township boys
- Greensburg high school roundup: Franklin Regional tops No. 1 Fox Chapel boys
- Season one of growth for Gators squad
- Daily News roundup: Thomas Jefferson shuts out East Allegheny
- Charleroi, BVA boys back to soccer playoffs
- Red cards frustrate Jeannette boys soccer coach
- Late win streak sparks Steel Valley girls
- Franklin Regional girls soccer clinches playoff spot
- HS highlight reel: Lengthy win streak comes to a close
- Greensburg high school roundup: Greensburg Salem girls blank Mt. Pleasant
- High school roundup: No. 4 Fox Chapel girls blank Gateway