The team that relies so heavily on its running backs wasn't running much at all.
Woodland Hills trailed Seneca Valley in the fourth quarter, and the Wolverines' 1,000-yard rusher hadn't played all night because of an injury.
No matter. Woodland Hills still won because of its running. But it was the wheels of the quarterback and defensive backs that gave the Wolverines another trip to the WPIAL semifinals.
Woodland Hills 28, Seneca Valley 14
Woodland Hills defeats Seneca Valley at the North Allegheny Newman Stadium during the AAAA quarter finals. (Video by Matt Hafley)
Woodland Hills got three touchdowns in the fourth quarter -- one by quarterback Harry Randall and two on long interception returns -- and defeated Seneca Valley, 28-14, Friday night at North Allegheny's Newman Stadium. The win puts Woodland Hills (9-2) into the semifinals for the fourth time in the past five years.
"I think we showed some character," Woodland Hills coach George Novak said of the fourth-quarter comeback.
What Woodland Hills showed is it could win despite being outgained, 401-257. Seneca Valley (9-2) also had 22 first downs to Woodland Hills' eight. But red-zone deficiencies and four interceptions kept Seneca Valley from making a second consecutive trip to the WPIAL semifinals.
Seneca Valley took a 7-6 lead into the fourth quarter. The Raiders scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 4-yard run by Mason DeHart with 7:09 left in the third. And things looked bleak for Woodland Hills when Seneca Valley had first-and-goal at the 10. But, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Seneca Valley quarterback T.J. Holl rolled right and tried to throw a pass back to the middle of the field. Woodland Hills' Mike Nash intercepted it and returned it to his 23.
From there, the wheels began to fall off for Seneca Valley.
"It's been the opposite of what happened tonight," said Don Holl, Seneca Valley's coach and T.J.'s father. "We've been phenomenal and efficient in the red zone all year."
After Nash's interception, Randall ran 22 yards and then 31 to help fuel a drive that moved to the Seneca 3. On fourth-and-goal from the 2, Randall ran straight ahead and carried a couple defenders into the end zone with 7:57 left. He finished the game with 172 yards rushing on 12 carries. He also scored on a 54-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Randall came into the game with only 483 yards rushing.
"They took away some things that we like to do, so we had to put the ball in the hands of the guy who could do the most with it, and that was Harry," said Novak, whose team played without standout running back Miles Sanders (ankle injury). "Usually, our tailback gets more involved, but they were taking away a lot of those things."
After Randall's go-ahead touchdown, Woodland Hills broke Seneca Valley's spirit with two big defensive plays. Donte Broadus returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown with 4:44 left. Less than three minutes later, Jihad Brown intercepted another pass at the goal line and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown.
T.J. Holl finished 25 of 38 for 298 yards and surpassed 2,000 yards passing for the season, but the four interceptions were costly.
"I don't know if I'll get in trouble for saying this, but George Novak is the best guy in this league," Don Holl said. "Not only is he the best coach, but the best guy, and you have to give his team some credit for making those stops in the red zone. You have to give them some love to force us to mis-execute or turn the ball over.
"But it starts with me. I put the [red-zone] package together and called the plays, and we didn't get into the end zone."
Seneca Valley had red-zone problems in the first half, too. On its second possession, the Raiders reached the Woodland Hills 6, but Chad Izenas' 29-yard field goal was short. In the second quarter, Izenas attempted a 33-yard field goal that also came up short.
On Seneca Valley's final possession of the first half, the Raiders drove to the Woodland Hills 21 and an 8-yard pass on second down put the ball at the Wolverines 13. But Holl lost 5 yards on a run and a fourth-down pass fell incomplete with 1:07 left in the half.
Seneca Valley's other touchdown came with 23 seconds left on Holl's 8-yard pass to Eric Mrkonja.
For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh