Upper St. Clair out to deny North Hills its 1st playoff win since 2010

Friday, November 1, 2019 | 2:49 AM

North Hills and Upper St. Clair haven’t played one another in nearly a decade, but a first-round matchup has stirred some nostalgia.

“It seemed like back in the day, that’s who we were matched up with quite a bit,” said North Hills coach Pat Carey, a 1988 graduate. “That’s back when Coach McCurry and Coach Render were at each other a little bit.”

When it comes to tradition, these two schools rank among the WPIAL’s best.

They’ll meet again at 7 p.m. Friday when eighth-seeded North Hills (6-4) hosts ninth-seeded Upper St. Clair (6-4) in a WPIAL Class 5A first-round game at Martorelli Stadium.

“In the playoffs, North Hills vs. Upper St. Clair, that’s been around for a whole lot of years,” said USC coach Mike Junko, a 1992 graduate in his first season as coach. “The fall just seems right with these two teams playing each other.”

The teams last played in a 2010 WPIAL quarterfinal and North Hills defeated USC, 16-14. However, North Hills hasn’t won a playoff game since, going 0-5 in the past eight seasons, a slide Carey wants to end.

USC seeks its first postseason win since 2017.

“I want to see it for our kids,” said Carey, who’s in his seventh season. “It’s important that our program gets a playoff win.”

North Hills used a new spread-the-ball running offense this season to finish second in the Northern Conference behind Penn Hills. Dylan Pawling has 11 touchdowns, Tom McDonough 10 and Curtis Foskey eight.

A year ago, the Indians averaged only 17 points per game but topped 34 points five times this season.

“One of the things they do well is you can’t look at North Hills and say, ‘We have to stop this running back,’” Junko said. “On any given play, they’ve got three or four guys that can hurt you. They do a good job of hurting you all over the field.”

Upper St. Clair also has a new offense.

Junko overhauled the Panthers’ attack in his first season, adding an up-tempo passing scheme that produced the WPIAL’s leading receiver. The Panthers finished fourth in the Allegheny Eight behind Moon, Peters Township and Bethel Park.

Junior wide receiver David Pantellis has a WPIAL-best 1,135 yards on 69 receptions. USC quarterback Ethan Dahlem finished the regular season seventh among WPIAL passers with 2,077 yards and 16 touchdowns.

“They spread you sideline to sideline,” Carey said, “and their stats are overwhelming to be honest. They put it together pretty well.”

North Hills is coming off a 21-7 loss to Penn Hills in Week 9.

A couple of close losses prevented USC from earning a higher seed. They Panthers lost by eight points to Peters Township in Week 1, and lost by one point in Week 9 to Bethel Park.

Statistically, the two teams are similar.

North Hills averages 24.6 points on offense and allows 19.5 on defense. USC averages 28.9 and 21.7.

“This isn’t a No. 16 vs. 1 football game,” Junko said. “It’s going to be a game that’s going to be four quarters. Another game that’s probably going to go down to the end.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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