PITTSBURGH - Woodland Hills head coach George Novak admitted with a bit of a smirk after his team's 10-0 win over Gateway for the WPIAL Class AAAA title that even he didn't expect the game to go the way it did.
"No way," he said when asked if he thought his team could shut out a Gateway offense that had been averaging nearly 46 points per game. "We were just hoping to contain them."
But the RivalsHigh 100 No. 55 Woodland Hills (12-1) defense stood up to the challenge, sending No. 14 Gateway (12-1) home from Heinz Field for the third consecutive year with disappointment.
Even more impressive about the Wolverines' defensive effort was that the team was playing without the presence of defensive coordinator Bill Morton.
Well, not on the sidelines, anyway.
"He had blood clots in his lungs and went to the hospital on Wednesday," Novak said. "He wasn't here today but he was on the phone with our staff from his hospital bed."
But because Morton was watching the game on TV, there was a six-second delay.
"He called a heck of a game," Novak said.
Typically stoic at quarterback, Rob Kalkstein looked out of sorts for most of the game for Gateway. His passes were significantly off the mark which was uncharacteristic for the four-year starter, who concluded this season with 2,266 yards passing and 26 touchdowns, and more than 6,000 yards on his stellar career, which included three consecutive trips to Heinz Field but no WPIAL titles.
"Especially in the fourth quarter, I think we got to him," Novak said of his team's pressure on Kalkstein. "I think we wore him out, we wore their line out."
Gateway head coach Terry Smith declined to meet with reporters following the game.
Woodland Hills running back Dom Timbers led all rushers with 78 yards on the ground, but several Wolverines split time at tailback and fullback due to multiple injuries that occurred both prior to and during the game.
One of those fill-ins was senior Jayron Polk, who is typically a wide receiver but scored the game's only touchdown on a 14-yard run in the second quarter.
"We moved Shawde Jenkins to fullback, and he's a little light to be a fullback in our offense," Novak said. "Then Cameron (Thompkins) went in and did a nice job for a couple of quarters, then Timbers got hurt and we put Shawde (Jenkins) at tailback. And for one series, we had to put Mitchell Nesby in at tailback, a little JV player, and he did a nice job. We had to have everybody."
The game's only other points came on Woodland Hills' opening drive of the game. After kicking the ball off, Gateway's Orne Bey fumbled on the return and Devon Dixon recovered for Woodland Hills on Gateway's 37 yard line. Nine plays, 31 yards and 5:05 later, Sam Scifo kicked a 23-yard field goal to give the Wolverines a 3-0 lead.
It was the only points, it turned out, that Woodland Hills would need to secure the school's fifth WPIAL title.
"They've all been fantastic," Novak said. "This never gets old."