Some 20 years before Jim Render arrived at Upper St. Clair High School there was football in the community. In 1958, Fort Couch competed in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“The team had no seniors and there were no benches,” said Mark Battaglia.
A young lad watched on the hillside. He grew into the team’s star signal caller.
In 1964, Jeff Joyce quarterbacked the Panthers to their first undefeated season in USC’s vaunted 61-year high school football history. The team also boasted a 6-foot-2 halfback. Jack Maitland went on to play at Williams College. He owns a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Colts. He also played for the New England Patriots.
Before Render, Bill Merrit, Joe Moore and Fred Wickstrom coached the Panthers.
“And USC football made an impact on the highest level,” noted Battaglia.
Indeed, Battaglia was a Big 33 selection. He played center on Penn State’s first national championship team in 1982. A USC Hall of Fame inductee, he played professionally for the Birmingham Stallions in the USFL. Additionally, Jeff Delaney and Craig Dunaway played in the NFL. The 1981 AFC Rookie of the Year, Delaney played two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was a two-time All-American at Northwestern State. A Michigan graduate, Dunaway played for the Steelers.
As coach, Moore was a “giant” said Battaglia in the business and in “anybody’s lives.” He guided USC to two WPIAL titles. He coached 10 years at the University of Pittsburgh and for 10 more seasons at Notre Dame, putting 53 players in the NFL. The Joe Moore Award, given to the most outstanding collegiate offensive line unit, is named for him.
Additionally, former USC player Kirk Ferentz coaches at the University of Iowa. He is the longest tenured coach in Division I college football. “I’m humbled as the day is long,” said Ferentz of that distinction. The Hawkeyes’ coach since 1999 owns a 147-113 record.
Of his experience playing for the Panthers, Ferentz said, “I was fortunate to live in a tremendous community and school district. It was a great experience, athletically and academically. I had great teammates that have become friends for life.”
In his tribute video to Render, Ferentz noted how well he was treated when he returned to recruit Sean Lee, who played at Penn State. He also noted how his last high school game came against Render when he coached Uniontown. USC edged the Red Raiders, 10-8.
“The field was soaked because a lot of rain had fallen. Jim thought we watered the field down intentionally to slow down his running back,” deadpanned Ferentz.
“Jim’s had a tremendous run and career. What he has done is phenomenal,” Ferentz added.
Render was recently recognized for his 390 career victories and multiple championships during the Celebration of 60 years of USC football held June 30 at the St. Clair Country Club.
The fundraiser featured an auction of autographed sports memorabilia as well as a VIP meet-and-great with Lee and a photo op with the Dallas Cowboys’ linebacker. Moneys raised will go toward the stadium renovation project and the hope is to earn naming rights for the field. The Upper St. Clair football boosters want to name the facility for Jim Render.
Donations for the on-going fund-raising effort are being accepted. Make checks payable to USC Football Boosters Association, which is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Mail checks to Kathy L. Hess & Associates, 1725 Washington Road, Suite 305, Pittsburgh, PA 15241.