North Xtra: Defense stands tall in North Allegheny's title victory

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Through the first 12 weeks of the season, only Mt. Lebanon in the season opener had scored 14 points in a first half against North Allegheny.

But in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game Friday at Heinz Field, Woodland Hills scored two first-half touchdowns to trail only 21-14 at intermission.

"[Our defense] didn't want it to happen again in the second," North Allegheny coach Art Walker said.

The Tigers (13-0) kept the Wolverines (10-3) out of the end zone over the final 24 minutes to preserve the halftime lead and help North Allegheny win its third consecutive WPIAL Class AAAA championship, 21-14.

"If we have a lead at halftime, [North Allegheny's defensive players] take it personal that if we shut them out, we win," Walker said. "They take it personal that the offense doesn't have to do another thing. That's how they want it to be."

The North Allegheny defense shut out its opponent in the second half eight times this season coming into the championship game. In three of the other games where the Tigers defense did allow second-half points, the "mercy rule" was already in effect.

The only time this season where a team scored in the second half against the Tigers when the game wasn't already over was in the WPIAL semifinals against Seneca Valley, and even then North Allegheny was up 23 points at the time.

But Woodland Hills had its chances to score in the final two quarters.

On the Wolverines' second drive of the third quarter, quarterback Cody McClelland hit Tom Greene for a 46-yard pass to get the ball inside the North Allegheny 20-yard line.

Three plays later, facing a third-and-6 from the 13, McClelland looked for running back Miles Sanders over the middle. But Chas Smith read the play, stepped in front of Sanders and intercepted the pass. It was the second turnover Smith was responsible for in the quarter, as he stripped Sanders and recovered the fumble on the opening possession of the half.

But Woodland Hills had another golden opportunity to tie the score at the start of the fourth quarter. A long pass to Sanders helped the Wolverines get a first-and-goal inside the Tigers 5-yard-line. On a third-and-goal at the 2, the Wolverines handed off to Alex Beasley, but the Tigers stripped him of the ball. Woodland Hills recovered, but back at the 6.

Woodland Hills went for the touchdown on fourth down, but McClelland's pass into the stiff breeze blowing through Heinz Field fell short of an open Khalil Harper in the end zone.

"The field was windy for passing, especially in the second half and we had to pass a lot in the second half," Woodland Hills coach George Novak said. "Definitely the wind had a factor involved in it."

Woodland Hills didn't get closer than the Tigers 38 the rest of the way.

While North Allegheny only had 39 yards in the final 24 minutes, Woodland Hills gained 135 yards in the second half after getting 141 in the first half.

But like eight times before them, the Wolverines were shut out by the Tigers in the second half.

"I wasn't surprised because our defense has played great all year and they have a great defense," Novak said. "I was surprised that many points were scored in the first half."

Erie McDowell will be the next team that tries to score against the Tigers' stingy defense when the two teams meet in a PIAA quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. Friday at Seneca Valley High School. hsfootball

First Published November 29, 2012 5:00 AM


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