Depleted Woodland Hills falls out of PIAA
ALTOONA — Woodland Hills senior Khaynin Mosley-Smith was slowly carried to the Mansion Park Stadium sideline, left there to join injured teammates Richard Gray and Cameron Thompkins. The Wolverines have had success finding replacements for a growing list of injured players.
Eventually, though, they added up.
The Woodland Hills defense allowed a pair of long touchdown drives, and its offense committed three turnovers during Friday night's 14-3 quarterfinal loss in the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs, ending the Wolverines' quest for their first state title. This also was the first time State College had beaten a WPIAL team since 1987.
"Not having all of our starters, the team thinks about that, but we went with what we had," said running back Dom Timbers, a Syracuse recruit who played despite a sore back. "Khaynin was a strong loss, but we still came out strong and gave it all we've got."
Mosley-Smith, a Pitt recruit, injured his ankle late in the first quarter. The 6-foot-1, 285-pound senior is a two-way starter at tackle. He was joined on the sideline by tight end Mike Lee, a Purdue recruit who suffered a concussion in the second quarter. Already there were Thompkins (shoulder) and Gray (ankle), who were injured in the WPIAL title game.
"Four of our best players were out, and we still were right there," Woodland Hills coach George Novak said. "That's a lot of players to lose. It seemed like all of our Division I guys were getting hurt."
State College strung together two 12-play scoring drives against a Woodland Hills' defense that was missing Mosley-Smith and standout defensive end Gray.
The first touchdown drive covered 79 yards, ending with a 9-yard pass from Dominic Mills to running back Alex Kenney, giving State College a 7-0 lead with 8:21 left in the first quarter. Kenney rushed for 76 yards on 14 carries. The second drive covered 72 yards and ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Colby Way to take a 14-3 lead with 46 seconds left in the third.
The Woodland Hills offense couldn't match that efficiency.
Timbers, a 1,400-yard rusher, had only nine carries for 48 yards. The senior was limited to minus-5 yards in the first half. Quarterback John Yezovich completed 9 of 23 passes for 117 yards and threw two interceptions to State College's Kenney, a Penn State recruit who has 12 picks this season. Yezovich also fumbled once.
Woodland Hills had two chances from the 2-yard line to avoid a scoreless first half.
With 10 seconds left, Timbers ran up the middle for no gain, and Woodland Hills called timeout. With 4 seconds left, Yezovich rolled to his right but couldn't outrun Kenney, who pushed Yezovich out of bounds short of the end zone.
It was a situation where Woodland Hills could have used Thompkins or Gray, the team's two best fullbacks.
"Maybe so, but we'll never know," said Woodland Hills junior Lafayette Pitts, who returned a punt 69 yards to start that drive. Pitts, playing with a sore knee, also completed a 29-yard pass to Joe Lofton.
A 35-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Sam Scifo with 5:46 left in the third quarter gave Woodland Hills its only points.
Wolverines assistant Bill Morton, who coached last week from a hospital bed, orchestrated the defense from inside the stadium this time. Morton was treated at the Veterans' Affairs Hospital in Oakland for a blood clot.
This will be the first time since 2000 that a WPIAL team won't reach the state Class AAAA championship game.
"We had our opportunities, we just came up short," said Novak, a three-time PIAA runner-up.