Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render has watched quite a bit of football in his day, but for a period of a few seconds Friday night, the winningest coach in WPIAL history had to turn away.
"I was sick," Render said. "I couldn't even watch."
Luckily for Render, sight didn't matter.
The sound he heard was good enough.
Joe Repischak blocked Dimitri Orfanopoulos' 32-yard field goal attempt with less than 10 seconds left, allowing Upper St. Clair to hold on for a dramatic, 21-19 come-from-behind win against visiting Mt. Lebanon.
"When I heard the thud and yells, I knew it was over," acknowledged the always-stoic Render afterward.
With the win, Upper St. Clair (8-1, 7-1) tied archrival Mt. Lebanon (7-2, 7-1) for the WPIAL Class AAAA Southeastern Conference title.
In what was truly a tale of two halves, Mt. Lebanon jumped on Upper St. Clair early, taking a 17-0 lead with the game less than a quarter old. But Upper St. Clair stormed back in the second half with 21 points.
The fourth-quarter drama began to unfold when Upper St. Clair quarterback Pete Coughlin fired a pass to Mike McGuire for a 23-yard touchdown to give the Panthers their first lead, 21-17, with 5:50 left in the game.
With all the momentum going in Upper St. Clair's favor, Mt. Lebanon quarterback Tyler Roth, who finished 21 of 42 for 362 yards and two touchdowns, found Matt McGraw for a 50-yard hookup to the Upper St. Clair 1.
On first down, Dorian Graham took the handoff and appeared to have scored a touchdown, but was ruled just short.
After another Mt. Lebanon run was stopped for no gain, the Blue Devils were called for an illegal motion penalty. The Blue Devils finished with 10 penalties for 101 yards. Roth then tried to connect with Troy Apke in the end zone on the next two plays, but they were both broken up by John Rutkowski.
"I wasn't too confident at first, but I felt a lot better after we stopped them on first down," Coughlin said.
When Upper St. Clair regained possession, they faced a fourth down with about one minute left, but Render had punter Tim Witenske intentionally kick the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety, making the score 21-19.
When Mt. Lebanon got the ball back, two Roth-to-Apke connections moved the ball to the Upper St. Clair 15 with 12.9 seconds left. With no timeouts, Mt. Lebanon elected to try the field goal.
Coughlin finished 4 of 7 for 75 yards and two touchdowns, the first coming on a 34-yard toss to Tim Witenske, who made a nice sliding catch in the end zone. That had followed Steve Mackowick's 20-yard touchdown run, which put Upper St. Clair on the board on the first drive of the second half.
The Upper St. Clair defense came up with some huge plays in the second half. They intercepted two Roth passes -- one by Rutkowski and the other by John Loper.
"We got some pressure on him that maybe some other people haven't," Render said of Roth, who was just 5 of 14 in the second half.
In the first half, Mt. Lebanon dominated play and time of possession. Mt. Lebanon outgained Upper St. Clair, 297-60 and ran 39 offensive plays compared to the Panthers' 15. The Blue Devils scored on their first three possessions.
First Published October 27, 2012 4:15 AM