Questions fly across football offices across Western Pennsylvania this time of year.
How can we stop this? How can we better execute that?
The question circulating around Peters Township coach T.J. Plack and Moon coach Ryan Linn this week is a rare one.
What can we do better this time?
“I believe this is a first for me,” Plack said. “All the legwork has been done. All the scouting has been done. I’ve definitely been intrigued by it.”
Just over a month removed from their last meeting in early October, Allegheny Eight Conference foes Peters Township and Moon will play again, this time with the season on the line in a Class 5A quarterfinal game tonight.
Kickoff at West Allegheny High School is 7 p.m.
“I’m the only person who has prepared for somebody twice,” Linn said about his coaching staff. “It’s a conversation we’ve had amongst ourselves all week long. You’re not going to change what you do. You constantly go back and look at how they cover, how they align and certain plays.”
Linn and fourth-seeded Moon (9-2) will try to do much of the same as the first time they saw the Indians, on Oct. 4, handing fifth-seeded Peters Township (10-1) its only loss of the season, 21-13. The loss led to both teams sharing the Allegheny Eight title with 6-1 conference records.
Limiting Peters Township to 205 yards – only 100 yards if you take away a pair of long touchdowns – the Tigers were the only team to keep the third-highest scoring team in Class 5A under 20 points.
“It’s always hard to hold a group of kids down like that more than once,” Linn said. “I think we can do it, I just don’t know to the same level as last time. A ball here and a ball there that they catch could have made it completely different.”
The loss fueled Peters Township into making adjustments before rolling in its final three regular-season games and first-round playoff victory over Mars. In those four wins, the Indians outscored their opponents 158-27.
The meager 8.5 points per game allowed by Peters Township is the third-lowest in the WPIAL.
“Our kids took it as an opportunity to get better,” Plack said. “If anything, that loss refocused us. It knocked us down a little bit and showed how hard it is to win in our conference let alone the playoffs. These last four weeks we’ve played our best football. Our guys have been so focused and ready to play. They took (the loss) and ran with it.”
Maybe the biggest difference between the teams will be at quarterback. Under duress the entire night, Peters Township’s Logan Pfeuffer completed only 11 of 28 passes for 90 yards. An injury kept Moon senior quarterback Dante Clay out of that game, forcing the Tigers to turn to backup Tyler McGowan, who played well by going 9 of 17 for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
“Our (key to success) has been controlling both sides of the line of scrimmage,” Linn said. “The times we’ve done that it’s led to wins.”
The winner tonight will advance to next week’s semifinals against either Penn-Trafford or Upper St. Clair, another Allegheny Eight Conference team.
“Ever since that loss they have been biting their chomps for another opportunity,” Plack said. “That’s why we have been so good lately. We have guys that want to compete. They aren’t scared. We have our guys where we want them.”
Peters Township-Moon is one of five playoff games involving local teams.
In the Class 4A semifinals, second-seeded South Fayette (10-1) plays Belle Vernon (9-1) at Peters Township.
Two local Class 2A teams are in action in the quarterfinals. Top-seeded Washington (11-0) plays Freedom (8-3) at Canon-McMillan while McGuffey (9-2) faces Riverside (7-3) at Montour. Washington has an offense that averages 45.8 points per game, which is the best in the classification. Freedom, however, held Charleroi to negative yardage in the second half of the Bulldogs’ 21-14 playoff win last week. McGuffey, which averages 41 points per game, plays a Riverside team that pulled off the upset of the 2A bracket last week, rallying from a 15-point deficit in the second half to win at third-seeded Burgettstown, 42-35, in overtime.
In the Class A semifinals, West Greene (10-1) and Sto-Rox (10-1) have the same record but how the Pioneers and Vikings did so is very different. West Greene is led by its ground game, led by Ben Jackson, the WPIAL’s leading rusher with 2,923 yards on 175 carries (16.7 yards per carry). Sto-Rox gets it done with the passing game as the Vikings’ Eric Wilson is the WPIAL’s second-leading passer. Wilson has completed 178 of 292 for 2,736 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.