Upper St. Clair hosts Baldwin in conference action
Not on my watch. That’s the slogan this week as Upper St. Clair (2-0, 2-1) prepares to host Baldwin (0-2) in Allegheny Nine Conference football action at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 15.
The Highlanders are under the direction of first-year head coach Loran Cooley and they list only 10 seniors on their roster.
“Baldwin is very young as evidenced by their roster and their playing several sophomores. Plus, they have a new coaching staff,” said USC skipper Jim Render, who recorded his 392nd career win last week against Moon, 41-10. “My experience tells me, they are going to improve. You figure they are going to keep getting better. Our job is to make sure their rise doesn’t happen on the night we play them.”
As experienced as they are, the Panthers, themselves, continue their upward trend. In shellacking the Tigers, the USC defense picked off four passes, three of which were returned for scores. Jesse Fera had two Pick-Sixes for 9 and 35 yards. Colin McLinden had the other for a 44-yard score. Jack Burton also had an interception to go along with a team-high 11 tackles. James DeIuliis followed with nine tackles while Matt Kissinger and Harvey Rauch each recorded seven.
“For the most part the defense played pretty well and having four interceptions, three of which were run back for scores, is always good, but we have some things to clean up,” Render said.
Nevertheless, when reminded of the adage that defense wins championships, Render replied that “defense certainly keeps you in the hunt.”
Offense also has the Panthers garnering a reputation. USC is ranked No. 5 in the 5-A division of the WPIAL in part because of McLinden, Jack Hansberry and Dom Cepullio. McLinden rushed for a one-yard TD against Moon. Hansberry completed 5 of 12 passes for 156 yards and a 71-yard scoring strike to Cepullio, who had four receptions for 147 yards.
“We had a lot of great individual efforts,” Render said.
“On offense, again, we had some great pass plays, catch and runs,” he explained. “We missed a couple of opportunities, like recovering a fumble at the 16 and not taking it in, or we would have put the game away a little sooner. Overall, I was very pleased, with our individual and team efforts.”
Render was also pleased with USC’s fan base, noting the Panthers had a good student following at Moon.
“They had fun and the band had fun,” he said.
And finally, the Panthers will be able to do a little celebrating at home. They have not played a home game since Oct. 14. Their last three games last year were at Hampton and Woodland Hills before the playoff trek to McKeesport. USC scrimmaged at Peters Township to open the 2017 campaign then visited Steubenville (Aug. 25) and North Hills (Sept. 1) before visiting Moon on Sept. 8.
“Our last home game is a distant memory,” Render said. “We are looking forward to Friday night.”