Mike Junko

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Mike Junko

Upper St. Clair and Peters Township will have little time to prepare for their game this week, as Thursday Night Lights will arrive in McMurray. The Panthers visit the Indians for a game, which will kick off 7 p.m. Oct. 1.

“A short week,” PT head coach TJ Plack said. “It will be here before we know it.”

The date is not the only thing making this Allegheny Six Conference clash different, USC coach Mike Junko said.

“Conference games feel more like playoff games because of just how competitive our conference is this year,” he said.

The division has been reduced from eight to six teams with the departures of Chartiers Valley and Baldwin, but Peters Township remains a force to be reckoned with in the section.

Since taking over as head coach in 2016, Plack has built the Indians into a Class 5A powerhouse, capturing two straight conference championships. In 2019, the Indians fell 21-20 against Gateway in the WPIAL championship game.

“Coach Plack and his staff have done a great job of developing their players and they have their kids believing they can win big games,” Junko said. “Our games against Peters Township have been extremely competitive over the last few years. I imagine this edition will be as well.”

The Panthers dropped a 29-21 decision at Peters Township last season.

“Peters Township has a group of talented kids returning this year,” Junko said. “Their quarterback is accurate and can stretch the field, both fronts are strong and physical, and they have great Blue Chip prospects Division I prospects that present a number of problems on both sides of the ball.”

In 2019, PT’s Logan Pfeuffer completed 129 of 210 pass attempts for 2,045 yards. He tossed 24 touchdown passes and anchored an offensive unit that produced 32.2 points per game.

The Indians are also led by Donovan McMillon and Corban Hondru, who are committed to Florida and Miami (Ohio), respectively. While that pair have been dominant, a supporting cast proved the difference in PT’s 24-21 opening win against perennial playoff contender Penn Trafford.

PT’s Breylen Carrington intercepted four passes, returning a pair for scores of 28 and 30 yards.

Vinny Sirianni also rushed for an 11-yard touchdown for the Indians, while Andrew Massucci kicked a 26-yard field goal and converted three extra points.

USC quarterback Ethan Dahlem completed 142 of 210 pass attempts last year for 2,218 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also rushed for nearly 1,000 yards.

After two games this season, Dahlem has completed 33 of 54 passes for 384 yards and two scores. He has two rushing scores and an 18-yard average per carry.

In a Sept. 18 loss to Pine-Richland, Dahlem completed 17 of 29 passes for 224 yards. He tossed scoring strikes of 26 and 21 yards to David Pantelis and Aidan Bessleman.

Ethan Hiester and Jaden Keating leads USC’s rushing attack. However, the pair are also weapons as receivers along with Mateo Cepullio.

Hiester is also an All-Conference punter.

“We are looking forward to the USC game,” Plack said. “We need to rely on our experience, put together a solid game plan, and be ready to compete.”

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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