Jim Render gets win No. 399 as USC ends South Fayette’s 57-game regular-season win streak
Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render moved one game closer to 400 career wins.
But it wasn’t easy.
The Class 5A No. 5 Panthers built an early lead and withstood a late-game surge by Class 4A No. 3 South Fayette for a 34-33 win in Week Zero. Render now has 399 wins.
“It was a well-played game by both teams,” the veteran coach said. “I was proud of our kids because they kept fighting.”
Trailing by 14 points heading into the fourth quarter, Jamie Diven connected with Joey Audia on a 21-yard touchdown pass to pull within 34-27. After forcing the Panthers to punt on the ensuing possession, South Fayette put together a six-play, 84-yard drive that was capped off by a Diven 46-yard pass to Charley Rossi with just over three minutes to play.
Instead of going for the kick to tie the score, the South Fayette staff elected to go with a two-point conversion. But the pass failed.
“We wanted to finish the game,” South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said. “We came here to win. Both teams were just trying to survive the fourth quarter. We felt like we had an opportunity. We worked on a play on Thursday. I liked our chances, but it didn’t work out for us.”
The ensuing Upper St. Class drive ended in near disaster. After an incomplete pass on third and 12 from their own 30 with under a minute to play, the Panthers botched the snap on a punt. The kick went only 12 yards and gave South Fayette new life on the Upper St. Clair 42-yard line.
But on the second play of the drive, Brandon Shearer came up with the interception to seal the win for Upper St. Clair.
“He made a fantastic, athletic play,” Render said. “That is a junior linebacker making his first start.”
The loss snapped a 57-game regular season winning streak for South Fayette. It is the first season-opening loss for the Lions since 2011.
“We’re still 0-0 in conference play,” Rossi said. “And the bottom line is that is all that matters. We wanted to play this game because we knew it would be situations like a playoff game. I thought it was a playoff atmosphere.”
The Panthers offense shredded the Lions’ secondary in the first half. Junior quarterback Jason Sweeney found major targets in the Pantellis brothers.
David, the younger of the duo, got the scoring started as the sophomore pulled in a 58-yard pass from Sweeney for a 7-0 first-quarter lead. The rest of the half was dominated by older brother Chris. The senior pulled in touchdown passes of 41, 31 and 10 yards to help build a 27-13 Panthers lead at halftime.
Chris Pantellis finished with six catches for 131 yards and three touchdowns. David finished with six catches for 132 yards and a score.
“They’re both excellent,” Render said. “We had things we thought we could explore in the second half. We had the long touchdown. That helped. We had a 14-point lead. So, I didn’t want to get too pass happy. Maybe I should have kept the hammer down.”
Diven finished with 352 passing yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.