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Upper St. Clair football coach Jim Render earns 400th career win

September 27, 2018
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High school students start to arrive to Upper St. Clair's stadium ahead of their game against Peters Township on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018.

The stadium stands were packed, his family was there to celebrate and former players dotted the crowd, all excited to witness a moment that was 49 years in the making.

When the clock showed triple zeroes Friday night, ending a tense fourth quarter, Upper St. Clair’s Jim Render became the first football coach in WPIAL history with 400 career wins.

Render didn’t talk much about the milestone in recent days, but took time Friday to reflect after his Panthers defeated Peters Township, 16-14.

“It means I’m old, that’s the first thing it means,” Render said “It’s 49 years of a lot of great players. The 400 wins isn’t about me. I don’t care who you are (as a coach), you have to have players that make plays. I’ve been very blessed and we’ve had players make plays. I could go down the list, but you know the list.”

Render’s first win came Sept. 11, 1970, when the first-year coach led Carrollton, Ohio, to a 12-7 victory at East Palestine in the season opener. After two years at Carrollton and seven at Uniontown, he arrived at Upper St. Clair in 1979.

Since then he’s won five WPIAL titles, two state championships and compiled a career record of 400-138-6 that unmatched in Western Pennsylvania.

“To get the 400 in 49 years, that’s tough,” Render admitted. “A 15-0 and a 16-0 (season) helped. It’s not easy. I’m not going to try to do it again.”

How remarkable is 400 wins? Consider, in the history of the WPIAL, Joe Hamilton and George Novak are the only other coaches to reach 300 wins. Hamilton retired from Blackhawk after the 2014 season with 342. Novak retired from Woodland Hills in 2016 with 306.

Nationally, only 18 active coaches have 400 wins, according to MaxPreps.com.

Upper St. Clair’s captains awarded Render the game ball at midfield after the victory as a long line of well-wishers waited to shake his hand.

“It’s amazing,” senior Antonio Orsini said. “Forty years of history, you just can’t beat that. So to be the team that takes him over the top, that’s really something special.”

Render’s 400th win will be remembered for a USC defense that won a field position battle in the fourth quarter, a quarterback who pinned Peters Township deep with his punts, and a key interception by Orsini that swung momentum in the final minutes.

With 10 minutes left and USC ahead by two, Peters Township started a drive at USC’s 39-yard line. The Indians had stolen momentum with two long third-quarter touchdown passes, but this time Orsini snagged the first-down pass from Logan Pfeuffer, a turnover that quickly flipped field position.

After that, Peters Township started its final three possessions at its own 10-, 18- and 10-yard lines. Twice quarterback Jason Sweeney pinned the Indians deep with punts.

“It was huge,” Render said of Orsini’s interception, “and I thought Sweeney’s punt down in that corner turned the field position around. It was a lot of emotion, a lot of big plays.”

This was a milestone win, but it also moves fifth-ranked Upper St. Clair (2-0, 1-0) ahead of No. 3 Peters Township (1-1, 0-1) in the Class 5A Allegheny Eight standings.

Sweeney led USC with 158 passing yards and threw first-half touchdown passes to Chris Pantelis (26 yards) and David Pantelis (21 yards). The Panthers’ first-half lead reached 16-0 when Peters Township punter Brian Bruzdewicz’s knee touched the turf while fielding a snap in the end zone.

Those two points made the difference.

Peters Township rallied after halftime with two long touchdown passes. Pfeuffer connected with Josh Casilli on a 57-yarder and Jackson McCloskey for a 41-yarder on consecutive possessions late in the third.

Pfeuffer competed 10 of 22 passes for 166 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. David Pantelis intercepted Pfeuffer twice.

“We’ve just got to get better from here on out,” Peters Township coach T.J. Plack said. “It’s a long season. It’s not like it’s an uphill battle. It’s just one game.”

Upper St. Clair had very little second-half offense. Seven second-half possessions produced six punts and one failed fourth-down conversion but its defense held late.

“I’m so much of a coach that I’m not happy about the milestone,” Render said. “Everybody else maybe is, but I’m worried about Baldwin.”

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