Mt. Lebanon playing USC: Winner takes it all
The details of the loss have mostly faded, but Dakota Conwell hasn't forgotten the heartache of losing to Mt. Lebanon.
"Not a day goes by in our locker room that we don't remember what happened last year," he said. "We've been talking about it for almost 365 days now."
It was this time last year when Conwell had Upper St. Clair ahead by 10 points in the fourth quarter -- minutes away from being Quad West champion -- before losing, 14-10. With the win, Mt. Lebanon took the conference title.
It's a loss that has motivated USC.
"We let it slip through our fingers," said Conwell, a quarterback and linebacker. "I just remember how disappointed I was at the end of that game. Now, we're trying to avenge our loss."
Mt. Lebanon will travel to Upper St. Clair on Friday with the conference title again going to the winner. This will be rivalry week around the WPIAL, and few match the intensity brought by these next-door neighbors.
"It's fun every year," said Mt. Lebanon quarterback Pat Goff, a three-year starter. "It's always a battle, and it's always a good game. Needless to say, it's the most anticipated game of our season."
Mt. Lebanon has much fonder memories of last year, when Goff threw a touchdown pass and Luke Hagy rushed for another during the fourth-quarter rally. It was the Blue Devils' first win over USC since the two were reunited in the Quad West in 2004. But that one win has provided plenty of confidence.
"Coach (Chris) Haering has been saying all week that we're the conference champs until someone knocks us off," Goff said. "That's the way we see it."
Mt. Lebanon lost two of its first four games to nonconference opponents Penn-Trafford, 34-17, and Hopewell, 27-20. However, once reaching its conference schedule, Mt. Lebanon won four straight and outscored those teams 132-31.
Hagy, whose 1,517 rushing yards rank second in the WPIAL, leads Mt. Lebanon with 20 touchdowns. The senior tailback had 167 yards on 20 carries in last week's 42-21 victory over Peters Township, including a 16-yard touchdown run. The Cornell recruit also caught a 66-yard touchdown pass from Goff, one of three thrown a week ago by the senior.
That offensive balance will be important, but Hagy said that the kicking game also could be key. A year ago, it was his 84-yard kickoff return that sparked the comeback against USC.
"I think it's going to come down to special teams," he said. "Who's going to make that big play that's a game-changer?"
Conwell, a Pitt linebacker recruit, leads USC in rushing and passing. A week ago, he had two 1-yard touchdown runs and threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wilcox. Zach Deitrick had touchdown runs of 1, 4 and 69 yards in the 55-0 victory over Bethel Park.
"(This week) is very important; it's everything we've worked for," Conwell said. "We want to win a championship, and it starts this Friday night."
Besides winning the conference title, the winner should get the higher seed when playoff pairings are revealed Monday. But even more importantly, the victory will provide a well-timed emotional boost.
"You carry a lot of momentum into the playoffs," Hagy said, "and that's huge in high school football. Momentum means a lot, so it's a very big game."
Prediction: Upper St. Clair, 17-14Additional Information:
Since 2004, when Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair were reunited in the Quad West, USC has won six of seven meetings.
Year, Winner, Score
2010 Mt. Lebanon 14-10
2009 Upper St. Clair 21-14
2008 Upper St. Clair 33-21
2007 Upper St. Clair 28-14
2006 Upper St. Clair 24-14
2005 Upper St. Clair 38-7
2004 Upper St. Clair 21-14