USC among top seeds for football playoffs
Five local teams embarking on football playoff run
After defeating Mt. Lebanon, 35-7, to run the table during the regular season and capture an undisputed conference championship, undefeated Upper St. Clair enters the WPIAL Quad-A playoffs as the No. 1 seed. The Panthers will host Kiski 4-5 at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 in the first round of competition.
Though the Panthers have racked up six shutouts in nine games and have outscored their opponents, 337-30, their best is yet to come says head coach Jim Render.
“Yes, I like the way we are playing but we can do better,” he said. “I’m not sure if we have played our best game yet. We have the potential to do more.”
How much more depends upon how healthy the Panthers stay throughout the playoffs. They await the return to the line-up of David Dougherty, who suffered a knee injury in a win over Bethel Park. However, sophomore Brandon Ford has played well in filling in the spot on the line.
USC also lost Ben Haus for the season when he broke both bones in his leg during a win against Plum. Earlier in the campaign, the Panthers lost running back Phil Saracco to a knee injury and they have been playing without wide receiver Mike Guire.
Against Mt. Lebanon, Mac Pope, their bruising fullback, hurt his left knee and his status for the playoffs was unknown at press time. Pope, who averaged six yards a carry, had a team-high 84 points from 12 rushing and two scoring strikes. He also was a mainstay on the defensive line, tied for second in sacks.
The cupboard, however, is hardly bare. The Panthers excel in all aspects.
“I think our special teams are good. I think our defense is good. Our offensiwwve line opens up holes. They do a good job,” Render said. “It’s not one single person, not one single thing.”
True. For example, Trevor Morrow leads the offensive attack. With his 158 yards against Mt. Lebanon, he improved to 852 on the season on 137 carries for a 6.2-yard average. His two TDs of 3 and 6 yards gives him 11 on the season.
However, USC boasts a plethora of running backs. Despite the loss of Pope, Steve Mackowick rushed for two scores of 2 and 13 yards against Lebo and Marcus Galie provided the first touchdown on a 3-yard run.
Joe Repischak completed 5 of 9 passes for 109 yards against Lebo. The senior has completed 57 of 94 attempts for 936 yards and four scores.
Defensively, Repischak is part of a defensive unit that has allowed 3.3 points per game. Kyle Page leads the team with 68 tackles followed by Morgan Lee (44), Jesse Slinger (43), Ben Huss (40) and J.J. Conn (36). Rori Blair leads the team in sacks.
Of his conference championship, USC’s third in a row, Render said that he was glad his Panthers didn’t have to share it this year. “It’s good,” he added.
Even better is the fact that the last time the Panthers went undefeated and won a conference title, they went on to not only win the district title but a state championship as well in 2006.
A win over Baldwin, 28-21, not only wrapped up home-field advantage for Bethel Park in the first round of the playoffs, it exposed the secret for the Hawks’ success during the postseason.
If the Hawks are to beat North Allegheny at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 and advance deep into the playoffs, they must replicate their first half of play against the Highlanders. In the victory, BP led, 28-7, at intermission.
For the Hawks, Levi Metheny was perfect, 8 of 8, in his passing attempts for 101 yards. He tossed a 10-yard TD strike to Connor McGinnis. He also rushed for touchdowns of 2 and 29 yards. Gary Gerst had the first score on a 10-yard run. Dan Christenson, back from a hamstring injury, kicked all the extra points.
“We played extremely well during the first half against Baldwin,” said head coach Jeff Metheny. “If we play like that, then we have the potential to be a good team in the playoffs. If we do that, then we will be competitive.”
While the Hawks, like USC, are looking to get some of their injured players back for the postseason, they have remained competitive because other players have stepped up and filled the voids. Metheny said that he has been pleased with the replacements, particularly juniors Chris Papalia and Max Michalski as well as sophomore Devin Andres.
“It’s good to get guys back but those guys also have stepped up,” said Metheny. “It has a ripple effect. Guys who have been playing special teams are now playing both ways and we hope they continue to improve.”
In taking on the Tigers, the Hawks face the defending district and state champions. NA finished 6-3 overall. The Tigers placed third in the Northern Eight Conference with a 5-2 record. The Tigers feature Elijah Zeiss a Pitt recruit.
After a 48-17 victory over Canon-McMillan assured Peters Township of fifth place in the Southeastern Conference, the Indians will travel McKeesport to face the Tigers at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1. The Tigers rolled up a 9-0 record and won the Foothills Conference. PT finished 5-4 in the regular season and 4-4 in the conference.
In the win over the Big Macs, Tim Swoope completed 14 of 19 aerials for 187 yards and three touchdowns of 9, 10 and 4 yards to Max Augenstein, Mike Erenberg and Nick Ray.
Cory Owen and Mark Minjock rushed for 20- and 8-yard touchdowns while Jake Uhler picked off a pass and returned the interception for a 65-yard score.
After blanking South Allegheny, 42-0, to wrap up an undefeated regular season and the Century Conference championship, South Fayette prepares to host Greensburg Central Catholic, a four seed out of the Interstate Conference with a 5-4 record. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.
“The No. 4 seeds in this tournament are dangerous,” said Joe Rossi, who guided the Lions to a 9-0 mark during the regular season. “It’s a different year where it seems some of the fours are better than the No. 3 seeds, particularly since a lot of teams have gotten players back from injuries.”
While Ryan Schmider, Jake Relihan, Matt O’Rourke and Jeremy Carter have “stepped up” and filled voids when the Lions suffered injuries, Rossi expects a full complement of players back for the playoffs.
“The kids are excited,” Rossi said. “And, I am excited for them. We’re coming off a conference championship and that was our first goal. Now, we’re on to our second goal.”
The win over the Gladiators demonstrated the Lions’ ability to contend for the WPIAL Class AA title. Not only did they record their third shutout in a row, fourth of the season, the Lions scored all their points in the first half against the Gladiators.
Brett Brumbaugh tossed 7- and 25-yard TD passes to Ryan Schmider and Connor Beck while Grant Fetchet rushed for two scores of 5 and 10 yards. Nick Ponikvar also ran for a 35-yard touchdown while Schmider returned an interception 72 yards for another SF score.
For the season, Brumbaugh has thrown for 1,914 yards and 23 scores. Fetchet leads the ground attack with 944 yards and 15 scores while Justin Watson leads the air assault with 12 TDs and 826 reception yards. Brian Coyne has scored 58 points as the placekicker.
J.J. and Zack Walker pace the defense with 75 and 67 tackles. Ben Berkovitz has a team-high five sacks and Schmider is tops in interceptions.
With a 37-21 win against South Park, Seton-La Salle finished the regular season 7-2 overall. Their 6-2 record placed them third in the Century Conference. As a result, the Rebels will be on the road for their first-round playoff game against Washington, which is 7-2 and the second-place finisher in the Interstate Conference.
In the tune-up against the Eagles, Tyler Perone completed 23 of 27 aerials for 368 yards and four touchdowns.
Danzel McKinley-Lewis hauled in an 80-yard strike. He had nine receptions for 192 yards in the game.
Kevin Curran gathered in two scores of 43 and 10 yards. Tom Rizza caught a 10-yard TD pass.
Rick Mellick rushed for the other touchdown on a 2-yard run.