McMURRAY — T.J. Plack had one question for his Peters Township football players after they defeated Upper St. Clair, 29-21, for what is believed to be the first time in the program’s history.
“Did they tire you out?”
Many of the Indians nodded their heads during the postgame huddle.
Be assured, however, PT also wore out the Panthers.
“Four quarters,” Plack emphasized, “You gave everything you had and well, we tired them out, too. You can look yourselves in the mirror tonight, tomorrow and the rest of your lives.
“We knew Coach (Mike) Junko runs a great program and they like to run plays, run plays and tire a team out. That was our motto. They are not going to tire us out. We are going to battle and we were going to be there at the end because it would take four quarters to get this done.”
Indeed, it was not over until David Pantelis was stopped on a fourth-and-35 play at the PT 33-yard line.
Pantelis finished with nine receptions for 156 yards and an 84-yard score as well as a 2-point conversion pass that pulled the Panthers within 23-13 with 4:34 to play in the third quarter.
Ethan Dahlem, who completed 15 of 24 passes for 284 yards, also connected with Mateo Cepullio for a 65-yard strike with 9:17 left in the final quarter.
“We ran out of time,” said Junko. “But I am proud of our kids they did not quit. They will fight to the very end.
“We did not play well in the first half and got behind.
“Peters Township is also very talented. They are well coached. So you are playing a quality football team. Credit them. Their kids made good plays. We were sloppy in the first half and we had to play catch up.”
The Indians were all over the Panthers from the start. Aidan McCall’s kick-off return put the ball within scoring range. Though Ryan Magiske pushed PT to the goal line with a reception and rushes, the Indians failed to convert on 4th-and-4. However, the Indians recorded a safety on Luke Banbury’s one-yard run.
“The safety put us back with the momentum,” Plack said. “Anytime you get points on the board that is major.”
Ryan Magiske and Josh Casilli played major roles in PT’s victory. Magiske rushed for 95 yards and a 1-yard touchdown with 7:58 to play in the third quarter. Andrew Massucci made it 23-7 with the extra point.
”No. 35 is a tough kid,” Plack said of Magiske. “He’s the sloppiest but the best runner I have ever seen in my life. Great vision and we relied on him to grind out the second half. That was the game plan.”
The game plan also was to utilize Casilli’s skills. He had three receptions for 89 yards, including 33 on a touchdown catch from Logan Pfeuffer with 7:53 left in the first frame. Casilli, who had a 53-yard juggling reception to set up Magiske’s score, also rushed for a 10-yard touchdown, lifting the Indians to a 16-7 advantage just before intermission.
Casilli, who plays also on defense, was utilized several times during the game from the quarterback slot, including on the touchdown. He rushed for 16 yards. He returned punts and kickoffs.
“He gets no breaks,” Plack said.
Less than two minutes into the second quarter, USC looked to catch a break as the Panthers narrowed the gap, 9-7. Brandon Shearer pulled in a 26-yard TD strike from Ethan Dahlem.
But the Panthers could not fend off all of PT’s weapons. Logan Pfeuffer finished with 218 yards passing for two scores, the second the decisive strike, 26 yards to McCall with 9:54 remaining. McCall had three grabs for 48 yards.
“Our defense held up but we gotta be more effective on offense,” Junko said. “We can’t leave our defense out there against their weapons and Peters Township has a lot of them.
Indeed as Andrew Massucci converted three extra points and Corban Hondru gained 29 yards on a fake punt. Donovan McMillon led with tackles and Zach Magnotti recovered a fumble.
Defensively, Banbury (8.5) and Shearer (7.5) led in tackles. Roman Murgi had two sacks while Banbury Danny Harkleroad had one each for the Panthers.