East Xtra: Amazing depth helps Woodland Hills reach title game

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"One-man teams" rarely make it to Heinz Field.

And even two-man and three-man teams hardly ever make it as far as a WPIAL championship game.

Woodland Hills (10-2) has made it to the Class AAAA final and will face North Allegheny (12-0) at 2 p.m. Friday, marking the Wolverines' ninth title-game appearance in the past 17 seasons and sixth in Heinz Field's 12-year history.

Although Woodland Hills has a number of star players -- including quarterback Cody McClelland, wide receiver/defensive back Tom Greene and emerging freshman running back Miles Sanders -- the Wolverines' depth showed in its 42-20 victory against Upper St. Clair in the semifinals last Friday night at Baldwin Stadium.

Two players who don't usually generate headlines -- sophomore running back Art Thompkins and junior cornerback Trevon Mathis -- were key performers as Woodland Hills pulled off its second consecutive WPIAL playoff upset with the win against Upper St. Clair following a 13-10 victory against Gateway in the quarterfinals.

Woodland Hills is the No. 7 seed in the Class AAAA bracket while Gateway was No. 2 and Upper St. Clair was No. 3. North Allegheny is No. 1.

"You need contributions from everybody over the course of the season," Woodland Hills coach George Novak said. "We have a lot of kids who are good players. That's one of our strengths. We have depth."

Thompkins was proof of that against Upper St. Clair as his 25-yard touchdown run gave Woodland Hills a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.

Thompkins had logged just three carries in Woodland Hills' first 11 games. He moved up to No. 3 on the Wolverines' depth chart last week behind Alex Beasley and Dequan White because of an injury to Sanders.

Sanders missed the game against Upper St. Clair after injuring his neck two weeks ago against Gateway. Sanders rushed for 204 yards in the first two playoff games after having 437 rushing yards in nine regular-season games.

"[Thompkins] made a really nice play," Novak said. "He did a great job of breaking a tackle and scored. He's very capable of doing that. He's done well in practice and you can see he has the ability to be a good running back. It's just that we have other guys in front of him."

Mathis has been playing well all year at cornerback opposite Greene. He just hasn't generated as many headlines as Greene, who is also Woodland Hills' top receiver.

"[Mathis] is a really good cover guy," Novak said. "He hasn't been beaten very often this year and he's done a good job against a lot of receivers."

Mathis got noticed last Friday night as he intercepted two passes by highly touted Upper St. Clair quarterback Pete Coughlin. Mathis returned the second pick 50 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the victory and send Woodland Hills on its way to the championship game.

To beat top-seeded North Allegheny, Woodland Hills will certainly need McClelland and Greene to play well. McClelland has thrown for 1,639 yards and 20 touchdowns while being intercepted just twice in 184 attempts while Greene has 38 receptions for 713 yards.

Yet Novak knows he will again need other players to come through against North Allegheny.

"Everybody is going to have a play a good game if we're going to have any chance to beat North Allegheny because they are really, really good," Novak said. hsfootball


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