South Xtra: Turnovers foil USC's hopes for title
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Going into last Friday night's WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal game against Woodland Hills, Upper St. Clair hadn't given up more than 19 points in a game all season.
The Wolverines scored more than that in the first quarter.
Woodland Hills scored 21 first-quarter points in its 42-20 rout of the Panthers at Baldwin High School, denying USC its second consecutive trip to Heinz Field.
"I guess I didn't have them ready," Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render said.
The amount of points the Wolverines (10-2) scored was surprising, especially considering Upper St. Clair (10-2) shut out its first two playoff opponents, Ringgold and Central Catholic.
But the defense couldn't be blamed much for Woodland Hills' scoring outburst, however. The Panthers' defense gave up just 221 yards, which was 52 fewer than the USC offense gained in the game. The reason the Wolverines put up 42 points was because USC kept giving the ball way on its own end of the field. In all, the Panthers were guilty of six turnovers.
All three first-quarter touchdowns they allowed came after turnovers on the USC side of the field. The first two gave Woodland Hills the ball inside the red zone.
"You can't give a good team like that the ball deep in your own territory twice," Render said. "It wasn't our night. We were out-coached and out-quicked."
Pete Coughlin tried to keep Upper St. Clair in the game, throwing touchdown passes of 59 and 20 yards to Morgan Lee and Steve Mackowick, respectively, to pull the Panthers within 7, 21-14, at halftime.
But after Woodland Hills scored on its opening drive of the second half, the Panthers turnover barrage continued.
Coughlin threw three second-half interceptions and finished the game with four on 21 pass attempts. He had just two interceptions on 100 attempts in the team's first 11 games of the season.
It was the last game for Coughlin in a Panthers' uniform. He produced a fantastic senior season, completing 82-of-121 passes for 1,331 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also led the team in rushing, carrying the ball 120 times for 577 yards and nine touchdowns.
Render said Coughlin and the rest of the Panthers' senior class had a good run, reaching one WPIAL championship game, winning two conference titles and making the playoffs each season.
"Our seniors had a great career," Render said. "They won 10 games this season."
Although Coughlin will be among those who won't be with the team next season, most of the other Panthers' skill-position players will be back.
The team's second- and third-leading rushers, Mackowick and Mac Pope are juniors. Five of the team's top six receivers will also return.
The returnees will attempt to make sure they don't have the same frustrated feeling in the locker room next season that the Panthers' had after Friday's loss.
"Every team in the state of Pennsylvania is going to have a locker room like this except the state champion," Render said. "So if you're in a tough tournament, you have to be prepared for both the highs and lows."
First Published November 21, 2012 12:00 am