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Woodland Hills shows glimpse of new passing attack in loss to Woodrow Wilson

September 18, 2018
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Woodland Hills’ Jay Smith dives into the end zone to score during the first quarter against Woodrow Wilson Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, at the Wolvarena in Turtle Creek.

Woodland Hills quarterback Gavin Gurreri-Judson zipped a short pass to wideout Jay Smith, who turned up field, collided with a tackler and flipped over the pylon for a touchdown.

That play was a glimpse of the quick-strike potential Wolverines coaches see in Gurreri-Judson, a 6-foot-2 senior who transferred home from New York late this summer. But the offense remains a work in progress, which showed at times during Saturday night’s 20-7 loss to Woodrow Wilson of Washington D.C.

The Wolverines reach the end zone on their first possession -- a 12-play, 77-yard drive -- but went scoreless for the final three quarters.

“It takes some time, but we’re getting on the same page,” said Gurreri-Judson, a 1,100-yard passer last year in Waverly, N.Y. “We’re running routes after practice. In practice we’ve got to keep on grinding. Eventually it will come all together.”

Woodland Hills has a solid collection of receivers, including 6-5 tight end Joshua Rawlings, who had a touchdown catch negated by a penalty Saturday. Gurreri-Judson completed 12 of 27 passes for 118 yards, including the well-placed 16-yarder to Smith that gave the Wolverines a 7-0 lead with 3:13 left in the first quarter.

Gurreri-Judson also completed long gains of 22 and 34 yards to senior Michael Roman in the fourth quarter. This was the first time coaches saw their new quarterback in game action outside of a few series in a scrimmage last week.

“I truly believe he’s a leader and he’s going to help us in the passing game,” Woodland Hills coach Tim Bostard said. “He’s got a strong arm, he’s a smart kid. Eventually down the line, he’s going to be able to make a lot of checks and be pretty good.”

But against Wilson, the offense turned the ball over on downs four times and also lost two fumbles, early-season miscues that prevented a Week Zero celebration on home turf.

This was the finale of the Western Pa. vs. Everyone Showcase at the Wolvarena, where WPIAL teams won five of the six matchups.

Woodland Hills, which led 7-6 at halftime, also fumbled away a punt return, had a punt snap bounce in the end zone and combined with Wilson for 26 penalties.

“We made a lot of mistakes,” Bostard said. “As you go along, you hope that every week you continue to get better. I think we have a very talented team that once we put it all together will be pretty good.”

Woodland Hills’ defense was holding onto a one-point lead when Wilson scored twice in the fourth quarter, both on touchdown passes from Malakai Anthony to Quincy Barber. The first was a 5-yarder with 11:41 left. The second, a 17-yarder with 71 seconds left, clinched the win.

In between the two scores, Woodland Hills forced Wilson to punt. But the Wolverines couldn’t field the kick and handed the ball back with 3:20 left.

“I thought maybe we could have another shot at it,” Gurreri-Judson said, “but things didn’t work out that way.”

Wilson running back Amir Gerald rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. He scored a two-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter.

Anthony Merideth led Woodland Hills with 54 yards on 13 carries.

Gurreri-Judson attended Central Catholic as a ninth grader before moving to New York, Bostard said. He arrived back in Western Pennsylvania in July, so he’s still adjusting to WPIAL speed.

“The game is much faster,” Gurreri-Judson said. “I’ve got to get the ball out quicker. The game is just so much more fast-paced.”

That timing will come, Bostard said, but a successful passing game relies on more than the quarterback.

“That’s something you have to work on every day,” Bostard said. “It’s timing but also spacing. If somebody goes to the wrong space and has the wrong read, then something’s going to mess up.”

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