Peters Township football coach T.J. Plack draws the line on his connection to South Fayette.
The high school is his alma mater. The 1992 graduate played football for the Lions before competing at Duquesne University.
Plack started at virtually every skill position on offense. He played tight end, running back, even quarterback, and was a linebacker on defense.
“I did play football. Enjoyed. Loved it,” Plack said. “I wasn’t that good.”
Plack was better as a football coach.
At the age of 27, he returned to South Fayette and coached the Lions to a 30-18 record with three playoff appearances in five seasons. When the Lions missed the playoffs with a 5-4 record in 2006, Joe Rossi replaced Plack.
Despite the departure, Plack rooted for South Fayette, particularly when his nephew, Noah, donned the green and white from 2014-17.
“I don’t cheer for them now,” he said. “Definitely not when they are an opponent.”
The Lions and Rossi indeed are scheduled to be Plack and Peters Township’s foe Sept. 25.
The Indians were the 2019 winner when the conference featured eight teams. Peters Township also reached the WPIAL Class 5A championship game, losing the title 21-20 to Gateway.
Plack dismissed the thought the Indians have a target on their back as defending champions.
“No, no,” he said. “We are a different team. We have to earn everything. We are not what everybody thinks we were.”
The Indians could be at a disadvantage. PT was unable to play its opening game when practices and school were shutdown after a positive COVID-19 test in the district.
“On the other hand, we are healthy,” said Plack.
While South Fayette has played twice, the Indians have played once. PT faced Penn-Trafford Sept. 18. The game against the Warriors helped prepared the Indians for this week’s assignment.
“They were good, but everybody is good. A good test, yes,” Plack said. “Their speed on the outside and everything else definitely helped us.”
Despite moving up from Class 4A to 5A, the Lions are a dominant team.
In its season opener Sept. 11, South Fayette traveled to Ohio and defeated Dover 42-14.
Naman Alemada tossed four touchdown passes. Ryan McGuire accounted for two of those scoring strikes, along with Joey Audia and Tristan Bedillion. Shay Aiken, Jacob Hosteler and Nate Deanes rushed for the other scores.
In 2019, Alemada ranked among the top passers in the WPIAL. He completed 205 of 282 attempts for 3,004 yards and 34 touchdowns.
Charley Rossi, Audia and McGuire are Alemada’s top targets. Last year, Rossi caught 53 passes for 816 yards, while Audia had 57 receptions for 736 yards and McGuire had 34 grabs for 778.
“They always have a good quarterback and dynamic wide receivers,” Plack said. “Sometimes you can get amazed by them, but they can run the ball well when they have to. They are good up front, too, and their defense is stout.
“Joe has them always prepared. They are well-coached. They do things the right way,” he added. “It’s going to be a fantastic challenge but we are excited for it.”
Division I recruits Donovan McMillon (Florida) and Corban Hondru (Miami) anchor a PT defense bent on stopping the Lions. They are among the six upperclassmen on a defense that allowed only 9.4 points per game last season.
McMillon and Hondrus also excelled on an offense that returns four veteran linemen in David Dicio, Ethan Spangenberg, Austin McKinnon and Dylan Wente.
For the third year, Logan Pfeuffer is back in the pocket. The 6-2, 180-pound senior completed 143 of 233 passes for 2,368 yards and 24 touchdowns last fall.
“Our goal is to be physically dominant on both sides of the ball, tackle, be explosive, make plays,” said Plack. “We need to play sound football.”