East Xtra: Rugged start for Woodland Hills

Brad Everett's high school football notebook

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If someone would formulate a strength-of-schedule statistic for WPIAL football teams, none of the figures for other teams would be on par with that of Woodland Hills.

In its first two games, Woodland Hills has played Upper St. Clair and McKeesport. Both teams are ranked in the top five in Class AAAA. Upper St. Clair is No. 1.

Two losses later, the team ranked No. 1 entering the season is still seeking its first win.

Woodland Hills coach George Novak said he was blunt with his players after the most recent defeat.

"I told them, 'You played two good football teams. We lost to both of them. We've got to get better. We've got to work harder and we've got to get better,'" Novak said.

Odds are Woodland Hills will indeed get better. And, possibly, much better.

The Wolverines were very close to winning each of the games. They scored first in both and, after trailing for the majority of the contests, were still hanging around in the fourth quarter.

"We scored early in both games, but the other team answered back," Novak said. "There are four quarters and we've got to play them all."

In the 16-10 home loss to Upper St. Clair, the Wolverines had the ball on the Panthers' side of the field in the final minute, but turned the ball over.

In a 33-20 loss at McKeesport, the Wolverines pulled within a touchdown at 27-20 with 3:41 left, but they could not recover an onside kick and then allowed the Tigers to put the game away with a touchdown a few plays later.

Woodland Hills began last season 0-1, but showed continued improvement in winning 9 of its next 10 games. The Wolverines went on to reach the WPIAL title game.

Sophomore running back Miles Sanders has been one of the biggest bright spots for the Wolverines. Sanders has rushed for 205 yards on 24 carries. He's scored three touchdowns, one coming on a 36-yard pass from Harry Randall against McKeesport.

Jayhawks soar

No team in the WPIAL has scored as much as Jeannette this season. Through two games, the Jayhawks have scored 111 points. They own victories against Southmoreland, 49-21, and Charleroi Area, 62-27.

Jeannette doesn't have one, two or even five players doing all the scoring. The Jayhawks have 10 players who have crossed the goal line for touchdowns this season, making them tough to slow down and keep off the scoreboard.

"One thing about us is that you might not see any of the guys in the stat column individually, but we have some good athletes and we move the ball around," Jeannette coach Roy Hall.

"It's harder to key on just one guy."

The Jayhawks have gotten touchdowns from Quentin Rickard, Julian Batts, Zack Altieri, Cruz White, Terell Canady, Damone Morton, Miles Sunder, Kareem Hall, Mataeo Garner and Seth Spiro. In addition, Canady, Michael Wise and Swade Redman have kicked extra points.

Hall called Batts the catalyst offensively. Batts, a junior quarterback, has passed for three touchdowns and rushed for two. He's also the point guard on the Jeannette basketball team, and was named all-section his sophomore season.

"I've been very impressed with his leadership and the way he's running the offense," Hall said.

The Jayhawks have also scored touchdowns on an interception return, kickoff return and punt return.

Game Watch

Kiski Area (2-0) at Gateway (2-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday -- The winner takes over sole possession of first place in the Class AAAA Foothills Conference. Kiski Area was dealt a 55-14 setback by Gateway last season, but the Cavaliers appear to be much improved. They scored 55 points in their first game and shut out Altoona last week. Gateway's Jimmy Moore had four touchdown passes against Connellsville a week ago.

McKeesport Area (2-0) at Norwin (0-2), 7:30 p.m. Friday -- McKeesport will give George Smith his 200th career coaching win should the Tigers get past Norwin in this Foothills Conference game. McKees-port and its flexbone rushing attack picked up an excellent non-conference win last week against Woodland Hills, 33-20. The Tigers rushed for 247 yards and Mikell Moore had two touchdown runs.



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