Game of the Week: Woodland Hills vs. Seneca Valley

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Woodland Hills' 0-2 start to the season looks less and less important every week.

Neither of the teams it lost to, Upper St. Clair and McKeesport, have been beaten yet. The Wolverines were able to make the necessary schematic and personnel adjustments early in the season, which has allowed them to peak at the right time.

Woodland Hills has won eight games in a row, and used a big second half to get past Pine-Richland last week, 35-14, and into a quarterfinal matchup with fifth-seeded Seneca Valley tonight in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal game that should be a doozy.

"We are the 4 and 5 seeds, [but] they could've been fourth, we could've been fifth," Woodland Hills coach George Novak said. "Defensively, they're as good as any other defensive front we've faced. They do a lot of stunts and they've got some big people.

"Offensively, [quarterback T.J. Holl] knows their package inside and out. They're a very dangerous team offensively because they do everything."

Holl, whose father, Don, is Seneca Valley's coach, has accumulated 1,800 yards through the air and 700 more on the ground while leading the Raiders to a 9-1 record, with the only loss against undefeated Central Catholic.

Stopping him isn't easy. Holl must be watched at all times. That includes putting defenders on high alert or even assigning a player just to watch him, depending on the down and distance.

"Our ends have a big job containing him," Novak said. "The biggest thing is keeping him inside."

Stopping a player such as Holl is a team effort. Defensive end Akira McClean leads Woodland Hills with 12 sacks and James Eggleston is a standout lineman, but to use Novak's words, his defense has "no superstars."

"Our defense is based on speed and quickness," he said. "We're a team-oriented defense -- 11 guys helping each other out."

Woodland Hills' offense will most likely be without 1,000-yard rusher Miles Sanders for another week. Novak said he is doubtful for the game with an ankle sprain.

Art Thompkins ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns as his replacement last week.

"[Thompkins] was a slotback and a defensive back," Novak said. "He has good speed and good vision."

A win for Seneca Valley would get the Raiders into the semifinals for the second consecutive season.

Today

■ Game: Woodland Hills vs. Seneca Valley, 7:30 p.m.

■ Where: North Allegheny's Newman Stadium.

■ Check this out: Both teams have had outstanding seasons. The combined records of the teams that beat them (Upper St. Clair, McKeesport and Central Catholic) is 30-0.


Nick Veronica: nveronica@post-gazette.com and Twitter @NickVeronica.

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