Friday's week one marquee matchup featured two of the most storied programs in the WPIAL. Thanks to Southeast Conference realignment, two teams listed in the top five of the Champs Sports Power Rankings kicked off the high school football season in one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the year.
Woodland Hills and Upper St. Clair, led by a pair of coaches who accumulated a combined 612 wins in 79 seasons, stormed the field each looking to prove they belonged at the top of the section standings. Only one started the season 1-0.
A classic WPIAL chess match, it took nearly the entire first quarter for one of the heavy weights to land the first punch. As the clock hit zero, Woodland Hills quarterback Cody McClelland pump faked the safety and hit a wide open Trevon Mathis, exploding down the sideline for a 68-yard touchdown reception. Less than two minutes later, the Wolverine's senior connected again this time finding Tom Greene hauling in a 39-yard passed tossed perfectly to the corner of the end zone.
Unable to convert either PAT, Woodland Hills nearly took their 12-0 road lead into the locker room at halftime. However, a 21-yard punt return by USC junior Morgan Lee gave the Panthers one last chance to capitalize late in the 2nd quarter. Senior QB Pete Caughlin marched his team all the to the Wolverine goal line,but an illegal procedure penalty on 3rd down forced the Panthers to settle for a Ben Stainake field goal.
A 4-1 team on the road last season, Woodland Hills coach George Novak had to be satisfied with the first 24 minutes of the 2012 season.
But after the bands played it was all Panthers.
The Upper St. Clair Panthers could seemingly do no wrong on their opening possession. Pete Caughlin confirmed last years' heroic WPIAL playoff performances were no fluke, executing the spread option read to perfection and running right through the Wolverines defense. Bruising running back Mac Pope appeared to score while diving into the endzone off the right side, but lost the football which was recovered by teammate and center Austin Park for the Panthers touchdown.
39 seconds into the 4th quarter USC took the lead for good. Caughlin added the first of his three 4th quarter touchdown runs on a 13-yard scamper thanks to a great perimeter block by fullback Nick Tancredi on the right edge and the Panthers never looked back going on to win 31-12.
The Panthers seemed to pick up right where they left off last November and will look to continue their quest to get back to the WPIAL Finals next Friday on the road against Canon-McMillan (0-1) at 7:30 p.m. Woodland Hills will hope to avenge their week 1 loss when they take on McKeesport (0-1) in the Wolverena, also at 7:30 p.m.