After rare playoff miss, Woodland Hills aims for normalcy

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Thursday, September 3, 2020 | 10:38 PM


It just doesn’t happen.

It’s not supposed to happen, Woodland Hills missing the WPIAL playoffs.

But last year, the unthinkable became reality.

For the third time in three decades and first time since 1995, the Wolverines were on the outside looking in at the postseason.

It was a drag around the historic Wolvarena.

“And 1995 was my junior year,” fourth-year coach and alum Tim Bostard said. “But in 1996, we won the WPIAL title. Who knows? Maybe that means something (for this year).

“Twenty-three years is a long time. We had a bump in the road. The goal is to get back to the playoffs.”

With motivation crystal clear, the Wolverines are set to begin a new season in a new conference — the Class 5A Big East with Connellsville, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Latrobe and Penn-Trafford.

“Penn-Trafford and Gateway are always up there,” Bostard said. “Franklin Regional, too.

“Maybe we’ll end up battling for that third spot. We’ll see. We have a top-loaded schedule; we play Penn-Trafford, Franklin Regional and Gateway back-to-back-to-back.”

On the heels of a down season, Bostard brings back several key players, including six defensive starters.

He will look to junior Deontae Williams to play quarterback and get the ball in the hands of playmakers Armani Bailey and T’Rek Scipio, both seniors.

Williams played under center in the final four games when the Wolverines went 3-1.

“Missing the playoffs was hard and sad for us because I know our seniors wanted to go farther because they didn’t want to leave like that,” Williams said. “This year, our motivation is just winning every game and winning states and playing hard until the whistle blows.”

Bailey displayed quickness in the slot, while Scipio is a deep threat who averaged 25 yards per catch as a junior.

Bailey also expects to be a threat out of the backfield, with senior Taelen Brooks and junior Eris Seibles also looking to get carries.

Another pass-catching weapon to watch is Eshawn Carter, who transferred last year from Steel Valley.

Two key linemen are back in seniors Julius Brown and Sevon Givner, and 300-pounder Jamire Ulmer returns from a knee injury to play center.

Defensively, senior Will Chamberlain and Scipio will line up at the corners, with Bailey and Williams deep.

Brown is an anchor D-lineman, Brooks also plays linebacker, and Carter brings additional athleticism to the secondary.

The Wolverines (3-7) started 0-6 and only registered one conference victory.

But there were plenty of close calls and they beat Chartiers Valley, 42-20, in the final game — a positive, but a far cry from a playoff win.

“The coaches broke down a lot of film and we realized we could have been a lot better if we had done the simple things,” Bostard said. “We lost 45-41 to Upper St. Clair and missed 40 tackles. We lost to Baldwin, 30-27, and missed 30 tackles and had some costly penalties. We also lost 21-20 to West Allegheny in an overtime thriller.”

Woodland Hills averaged 7.7 penalties a game, Bostard said.

‘The whole team this year is focused and hungry,” Williams said. “Our seniors are like hyenas and ready to eat right now.”

Just qualifying for the playoffs will open a release valve in the program.

“Two years ago we upset Mars as the 14 seed,” Bostard said. “Anything can happen as long as you get into the dance.”

Schedule

Coach: Tim Bostard

2019 record: 3-7, 1-6 in Class 5A Allegheny Eight Conference

All-time record: 253-126-0

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, Connellsville*, 7

9.18, Penn Hills, 7

9.25, at North Hills, 7

10.2, at Penn-Trafford*, 7:30

10.9, Franklin Regional*, 7

10.16, Gateway*, 7

10.23, at Latrobe*, 7

*Class 5A Big East Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Deontae Williams

38-66, 659 yards, 7 TDs

Receiving: T’Rek Scipio

15-395 yards, 4 TDs

Rushing: Will Clarke*

172-1,161 yards, 12 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• With Dublin Coffman (Ohio) opting not to play in Week Zero, Woodland Hills scrambled to find an opponent and was rumored to have settled on Pine-Richland for the Western Pa. vs. Everyone Showcase, but the event was canceled when the season was shortened by the WPIAL.

• The Wolverines have missed the WPIAL playoffs just three times in 32 years.

• Nonconference games this season had included McKeesport and Moon, but games against Penn Hills and North Hills remain.

• Brooks has an offer from Central Michigan.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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