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Baldwin High School's student body honored two of its stars on Friday night, crowning them at halftime as the school's Homecoming king and queen.
But it was Woodland Hills High School's football team that stole the show, dominating Baldwin High and spoiling the Highlanders' Homecoming night with a 35-7 defeat.
Woodland Hills outgained Baldwin, 321-132, and led, 28-0, at halftime before holding on for a WPIAL AAAA Southeastern Conference victory that upped its record to 4-2 overall and 3-2 in the Southeastern.
Baldwin falls to 1-5 overall and 1-5 in the conference with its fourth straight loss, the past three of which have seen the Highlanders feel the effect of a mercy rule (running clock) instituted for teams trailing by 35 points or more.
"'Murderers' Row' is over," Baldwin’s Head Coach Jim Wehner said when asked about his team's consecutive losses to some of AAAA's best programs. (Penn Hills, Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair high schools were the others, respectively.) "We have to regroup now.
"Our goal, right now, is to take it one game at a time and try to win (our) last three (games). That's what we're gonna try to force into the kids' heads. We gotta win one game at a time."
Baldwin's senior running back Dorian Brown, one of the WPIAL's best rushers, was at less than 100 percent against the visiting Wolverines, and it showed with his lowest rushing output of the season—15 carries for 59 yards and no touchdowns.
Brown was limited in practice during the week while he recovers from a leg injury, and if not for teammate and junior running back/wide receiver Nick Barca, who spelled Brown with eight carries for 57 yards and a TD, Woodland Hills' defensive effort would have looked even more one-sided.
Nevertheless, led by junior linebacker Dontae Broaddus' game-high eight tackles (six solo), the Wolverines limited Baldwin to just 2.8 yards per play. Broaddus also blocked a punt.
Conversely, Woodland Hills averaged 6.1 yards per play, led on the ground by freshman running back Miles Sanders' 86 yards on 10 carries, including two TDs. Sanders' teammate and senior running back/linebacker Alex Beasley added 67 yards on just six carries, including perhaps the game's biggest play with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first quarter.
With the Wolverines up, 7-0, and driving in Baldwin territory, Beasley ran over junior defensive back Jay Morrison—the Highlanders' leading tackler—on a nine-yard gain.
Morrison had to leave the field on a stretcher, and Wehner said that Morrison was taken to a local hospital to be treated for a concussion and a shoulder injury. His full health status is unknown.
"I feel like I'm the type of guy where, I'm gonna give you one move," Beasley said of the play. "If you don't take it, you gotta take what's coming to you.
"When I hit No. 2 (Morrison)—God bless 'im—but I saw the middle was open, one cut and upfield, and I squared my shoulders. I played football."
The Highlanders had their hands full with the 6-foot, 230-pound Beasley on both sides of the ball, as he also made four tackles (three solo) and forced and recovered a fumble on the same play.
"I can thank Coach (Dennis) Damico for that," Beasley said about his ability to play offense and defense effectively without tiring. "He's our strength and conditioning coach, and he's played a major part of my success."
Woodland Hills scored two plays after Morrison left the game. Sanders broke loose for a 13-yard TD to finish that seven-play, 80-yard drive, and the Wolverines never looked back.
The first TD of the game, though, came at the end of Woodland Hills' first possession—a five-play, 23-yard drive—when senior quarterback Cody McClelland found classmate and wide receiver/defensive back Tom Greene with a 12-yard scoring pass. The drive followed Broadus' blocked punt.
Greene was outstanding, finishing the game with a game-high six catches for a game-high 88 yards. McClelland finished 9-for-21 passing for a game-high 124 yards and two TDs, and he carried the ball three times for 37 yards and one TD.
Woodland Hills scored the only points of the second quarter, as well, getting a 46-yard TD run from Sanders to finish a six-play, 55-yard drive and a McClelland 26-yard TD pass to junior wide receiver Chris David to end an 11-play, 69-yard one.
The 55-yard drive felt more like a 70-yard one, as the Wolverines were hit with a 15-yard personal foul at the end of a preceding interception return by Greene.
David's TD came with just 21 seconds to play before halftime.
In the third quarter, on the next play after another interception—Brown was picked off on a flea-flicker by junior defensive back Salaam Mangum—McClelland notched a 30-yard TD run to make the score 35-0 and start a running clock.
Baldwin put together a seven-play, 69-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late. Barca rushed four times on that drive for 44 yards, including a one-yard TD plunge that stopped the clock with 3:08 left.
Baldwin's sophomore quarterback Doug Altavilla threw 14 times, completing six passes for 50 yards, including a team-high three completions to senior wide receiver D'Andre Andrews for a team-high 45 yards. But Altavilla was also picked off twice and sacked three times for losses totaling 29 yards.
Sophomore defensive end Akira McLean had two of those sacks as part of four tackles (three solo), including a forced fumble. Greene had two interceptions for a total of 53 return yards.
Baldwin used a wildcat formation for parts of the second half, getting the ball to Brown on many direct snaps.
"When 28 (Brown)'s on the field, any time he touches the ball, he could take it the distance," Woodland Hills' Head Coach George Novak said. "I was real proud of our defense that they contained him tonight."
The Highlanders were led defensively by Barca and junior linebacker Jake Elk, each of whom made six tackles (five solo).
Baldwin plays a non-conference game next at Fox Chapel Area High School (1-5 overall) on Friday night, Oct. 12, at 7, while Woody High returns home for a Southeastern game against Canon-McMillan High School (1-5, 1-4) at that same time.
"We can't overlook anybody," Novak said of his team's next opponent. "Quad A football is tough because all of the teams are well-coached. You gotta work every week for the victory."
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