It's a matchup of WPIAL Class AAAA Goliaths right out of the gate: Post-Gazette preseason No. 1 Woodland Hills plays host to No. 2 Upper St. Clair at 7:30 p.m. today in the season opener.
Upper St. Clair will be eager for revenge after last season's WPIAL playoffs, where Woodland Hills beat its Southeastern Conference rival, 42-20, to advance to the championship game.
The Panthers lineup is full of seniors, including Ben Huss, one of the WPIAL's top linemen. He'll be opening holes for senior running backs Steve Mackowick (5 feet 9, 175 pounds) and Mac Pope (6-2, 225), who ran for 16 touchdowns last year.
Woodland Hills counters with sophomore running back Miles Sanders, who led the team in rushing as a freshman with 738 yards on 129 carries (5.7 yards per carry). He was also dangerous in the passing game, turning eight receptions into 211 yards.
Both teams are replacing standout quarterbacks. Upper St. Clair lost Pete Coughlin, who led the team in passing (1,331 yards) and rushing (545 yards) a season ago. Woodland Hills looks to replace Cody McClelland, who threw for 1,803 yards with 21 touchdowns and three interceptions, as well as top receiver Tom Greene, who caught 42 balls for 803 yards.
A player to watch is Wolverines senior dual-threat quarterback Harry Randall, who will take over under center. His 2012 season ended prematurely with a knee injury, but from all indications he is ready to go this year.
Upper St. Clair's Rori Blair (6-3, 225) was named to the Post-Gazette's Preseason Fabulous 22. Recruited to play defensive end at Pitt, Blair missed last season after having a stroke. He spent two months between the hospital and rehabilitation center but has been cleared to play by doctors. He'll have to knock the rust off this season but could be a star for the Panthers if he returns to form. Blair lines up at tight end on offense.
Upper St. Clair and Woodland Hills also met in the opener last season, which Upper St. Clair won, 31-12. Woodland Hills was up, 12-0, in the first half before Upper St. Clair's ground game took over in the second half and turned the tide.
The loser of this game will have an uphill climb to the Southeastern Conference title. Last year's champions, Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon, finished at 7-1 in the conference, meaning the loser of this game will likely need to win out for a shot at the title.
• Game: Upper St. Clair at Woodland Hills, 7:30 p.m.
• Where: Woodland Hills.
• Check this out: These two Class AAAA heavyweights met in the season opener last year. Upper St. Clair overcame a 12-0 first-half deficit to score 31 unanswered points and win, 31-12.
First Published August 30, 2013 4:00 AM