WPIAL Class AAAA football: Seneca Valley taking another 'first' step
Jordan Brown, right, Forrest Barnes and Seneca Valley will try tonight to beat North Allegheny for the first time since 2002.
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The three meaningful words often associated with Seneca Valley this year and last year have been "first time since."
A year ago, Seneca Valley won a playoff game for the first time since 2002. This season, the Raiders have won 10 games for the first time since 1995 and made it to the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals for the first time since '97.
Tonight, the Raiders will try to add another "first time since" to their resume. Standing in their way is a team that has thoroughly dominated Seneca Valley over the past decade.
Seneca Valley (10-1) meets North Allegheny (11-0) in a WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal at North Hills' Martorelli Stadium. North Allegheny has won 11 consecutive games against Seneca Valley and most of them have been blowouts. In the 11 victories, North Allegheny has outscored Seneca Valley, 412-125, including a 45-3 win earlier this season.
Seneca Valley will try to beat North Allegheny for the first time since 2002. The Raiders' 47-21 victory 10 years ago was the third consecutive against North Allegheny.
"Clearly, there has been somewhat of a mental block with North Allegheny or some kind of hurdle to overcome," said Don Holl, in his fourth season as Seneca Valley's coach. "But I think it's interesting to know that things do go in cycles. Obviously, North Allegheny is in a pretty good cycle right now. But a decade ago when Seneca Valley wasn't all that great, they would beat North Allegheny.
"We do have some guys who have played football a long time and have struggled against [North Allegheny]. ... But we're trying hard to make our focus that the best way for us to win is to do what we do well, control what we can control and not worry so much about the other team. If we do that, we have a good chance of winning, no matter who we are playing."
North Allegheny, hoping to become the first WPIAL team to win three consecutive Class AAAA titles, has been a machine this season. The Tigers have outscored opponents, 439-65, and their closest game was a 14-3 victory against Gateway. They have defeated every other opponent by at least 25 points.
It is hard to find a weakness in North Allegheny. Quarterback Mack Leftwich has thrown for more than 2,000 yards for the second year in a row and lineman Pat Kugler is a University of Michigan recruit. Talent permeates throughout this team.
But in the first meeting, Seneca Valley and North Allegheny were tied, 3-3, in the second quarter when Seneca Valley collapsed like an old card table.
Seneca Valley, though, has averaged 44.8 points in eight games since then. Quarterback Jordan Brown has thrown for 1,726 yards, running back Forrest Barnes has rushed for 1,636 and receiver Jonathan Dorogy has 37 receptions.
But can Seneca Valley's defense slow down North Allegheny?
"We learned in that first game you can't give up plays," Holl said. "We had two or three times where we had great chances to make plays and we didn't. They had two or three chances to make plays and they made them. We have to minimize their opportunities and maximize ours."
Seneca Valley's only championship appearance in school history was 1989 when the Raiders lost to Aliquippa in the Class AAA final at Three Rivers Stadium.
The other Class AAAA semifinal also is a rematch of a game earlier this season. Woodland Hills lost to Upper St. Clair, 31-12, in the season opener.
"Both teams have changed some since that game," Woodland Hills coach George Novak said. "They're better than they were in that first game. I hope we're better, too."
Woodland Hills led Upper St. Clair, 12-3, at halftime in the first meeting.
This time around, Woodland Hills might be without its starting running back. Miles Sanders, a freshman, injured his neck in last week's quarterfinal victory against Gateway and is questionable. Sanders has 641 yards rushing, and if he doesn't play, DeQuan White and Alex Beasley will handle the halfback chores.
Woodland Hills has a solid passing attack with quarterback Cody McClelland (75 of 171 for 1,483 yards) and Tom Greene (33 receptions for 593 yards). But Upper St. Clair's defense has allowed only 97 and 63 yards total offense in two playoff games.
Upper St. Clair's offense is led by quarterback Pete Coughlin, who doesn't throw often but completes 74 percent (74 of 100 for 1,161 yards) of his passes. He also leads the team in rushing with 509 yards on 104 attempts.
"There is not a weakness on their team," Novak said. "Their defense is very strong and the offense is hard to prepare for because they run so many different sets. They can catch you over-adjusting to one side or the other."
First Published November 16, 2012 12:00 am