Upper St. Clair's Render deflects credit
From his weekly routine to his admittedly stubborn coaching philosophy, Upper St. Clair football coach Jim Render said he hasn't changed much over the past three decades.
What has changed - almost with the frequency of each new opponent - is his career victory count.
Render notched his 327th win and moved into second place for career coaching victories in the state Friday with a 35-0 victory over Baldwin.
"This isn't a milestone for me, because you can't win at this level without great assistant coaches and players," Render said Saturday.
"It's not about me. I don't need another win for my resume. It's about each of our players making their niche in our tradition. That's why I've been very fortunate."
Wyoming Valley West coach George Curry remains No. 1 on the list with 409 victories.
"George is a friend of mine, and he had a great career at Berwick," Render said. "I don't aspire to, or anticipate, catching up to him."
Render (327-106-7) passed retired Central Bucks West coach Mike Pettine, who was 326-42-4 from 1968-1999.
|*George Curry||Wyoming Valley West||409|
|*Jim Render||Upper St. Clair||327|
|Mike Pettine||Central Bucks West||326|
|*Frank Pazzaglia||Mid Valley||321|
|* indicates active coaches|
Dunmore coach Jack Henzes, who ranks No. 4 on the list, trails Render by five wins at 322.
While there is no official national list, Summerville (S.C.) coach John McKissick is widely believed to be the all-time winningest high school football coach, with a 556-130-13 record in 55 seasons, ending in 2006.
USC (4-3, 1-3) trails in the Quad West playoff chase, and Render's latest victory didn't arrive without its share of adversity. Upper St. Clair suffered consecutive close defeats to Central Catholic, Canon-McMillan and Bethel Park that might have left some coaches second-guessing themselves.
"The last month, I was wondering if we'd every get another victory," Render said.
Central Catholic kicker Matt Oczypok hit a 48-yard game-winning field goal Sept. 19, and a week later, Canon-McMillan upset USC, 28-27, in overtime.
"We always have a target on our back," Render said.
It's been that way since USC won the state title in 1989. The target got bigger when USC won state in 2006 with a 16-0 record. USC also finished as the PIAA runner-up in 1992 and 1997 and finished second in the WPIAL five times from 1991 through 2003.
"It's an interesting challenge every week at the Quad-A level," Render said. "We just played some heavyweight opponents with great athletes."
Asked if there's a secret to winning so many games, Render paused for several seconds recently while seated in front of a row of lockers in the quiet USC field house.
"I don't know, every victory is special," he said. "Every victory has a lot of hard work behind it. I don't really count. I'm not into records. I'm into who's next and what can I help us do to win."
Steelers pro personnel coordinator Doug Whaley, who played linebacker and running back for Render from 1987-'89, has praise for his former coach.
"The cornerstone to his system is avoiding mistakes - and capitalizing on the other team's mistakes," Whaley said. "It's a proven winner."
Whaley said the emphasis is attention to detail.
"The basis of USC's system is to out-execute teams," Whaley said. "His teams try to do what they do to perfection, and he surrounds himself with assistants and players who believe in that philosophy."
Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has studied Render's teams, mostly on video, while evaluating talent.
"Jim is a phenomenal coach and person," Bradley said. "He and his staff do an outstanding job. His teams don't make mistakes, they protect the football. They do all the sound, fundamental things that it takes to win consistently."
Said Render: "I have a good staff, guys who can really teach the game of football. We have over 200 years of coaching experience on our staff.
"And the Upper St. Clair kids are motivated kids. They're used to working hard, and that helps.
"I've coached a ton of great kids. We try to keep them grounded in the fundamentals, make them take care of the football. Play smart."
Jim Render, Upper St. Clair football coach
Upper St. Clair (1979-present)
Carrollton (Ohio) (1970-71)
PIAA - 1989, 2006
WPIAL - 1988, 1989, 1992, 1997, 2006
Conference - 20 titles - 1971, 1978, 1982 through '84, 1989 through '97, 2001 through '06.