The third WPIAL championship game between North Allegheny and Woodland Hills was a lot like the second matchup to a T…and the T stands for Three-Peat as the Tigers became the 1st school in the 33 history of Quad A football to win a third straight district football title after a 21-14 victory over the Wolverines, the same final score as when the teams met in the 2010 finals.
(Photo Left: North Allegheny and Woodland Hills line up early in what turned out to be a third straight championship win for the Tigers)
North Allegheny struck first less than three minutes into the game when quarterback Mack Leftwich hit senior tight end Zach Lyon who made a nifty one handed catch and ran the final ten yards to complete a 44-yard run and catch. Ben Ziolkowski’s extra point put NA up 7-0.
Woodland Hills took the first punch, but did not blink. On their first touch of the ball on offense, they drove 69 yards on only six plays highlighted by a 47-yard scamper by freshman running back Miles Sanders. Three plays later, the Wolverines were on the board when senior quarterback Cody McClelland hit Tom Greene on an 11-yard scoring pass in the right corner of the end zone. Donald Cassidy’s extra point tied the game at 7-7.
The two-time defending champions found themselves trailing for one of the few times all year early in the second quarter thanks to a rare mistake by Leftwich. He fumbled the ball at his own 6-yard line, recovered by Woody High’s Alex Beasley. It took the Wolverines four plays, but Sanders finally hammered it home on fourth and goal to put the underdogs up 14-7.
But the Tigers didn’t trail for long. They drove the ball 64-yards on 12 plays capped by a Leftwich to Lyon scoring connection again, this time on a 5-yard toss to even the game after the point after at 14 each.
After forcing a Woodland Hills punt, the Tigers were able to take the lead by scoring late in the first half. Starting at their own 18 with only 70 seconds left, Leftwich hit Elijah Zeise on a 50-yard hook-up to move the ball to the Wolverines 32. One play later, it was Leftwich to senior receiver Gregg Garrity on a deep slant for a 32-yard scoring play with only 25 seconds left in the second quarter as NA took a 21-14 lead into the locker room.
Game plans changed and the two defenses took over in the second half. Each time had scoring opportunities thwarted, including a Woodland Hills third quarter drive that ended at the North Allegheny 13 yard line with a McClelland incomplete pass and a fourth quarter Wolverines drive that ended at the Tigers 6-yard line on another incompletion.
A great postseason run that included wins over #2-seed Gateway in the Quarterfinals and #3 Upper St. Clair in the Semifinals, ends for Woodland Hills with a 10-3 record.
North Allegheny celebrates the schools fourth WPIAL crown with a perfect 12-0 record and now have won 30 straight against District 7 competition. The Tigers shoot for a second state title in the last three years next weekend when they will face either Erie McDowell or State College in the PIAA Quarterfinals.
WOODLAND HILLS WOLVERINES : 7 – 7 – 0 – 0 = 14
NORTH ALLEGHENY TIGERS : 7 – 14 – 0 – 0 = 21
NA – Zach Lyon 44-yard touchdown pass from Mack Leftwich – Ben Ziolkowski PAT (NA 7-0)
WH – Tom Greene 11-yard touchdown pass from Cody McClelland – Donald Cassidy PAT (7-7)
WH – Miles Sanders 1-yard run – Donald Cassidy PAT (WH 14-7)
NA – Zach Lyon 5-yard touchdown pass from Mack Leftwich – Ben Ziolkowski PAT (14-14)
NA – Gregg Garrity 32-yard touchdown pass from Mack Leftwich – Ben Ziolkowski PAT (NA 21-14)