1st-year QBs lead Peters Township, South Fayette into Allegheny Six opener

Friday, September 16, 2022 | 6:37 AM

T.J. Plack handed the key for Peters Township’s offense to a first-year starting quarterback and told him to drive.

“You don’t need to buy any rims or anything like that, just make the correct turns, use your turn signal and get the ball to our guys,” Plack said with a laugh. “That’s what he’s been doing. He realizes he has some guys around him. He’s done a fantastic job.”

Indians quarterback Chris Cibrone hasn’t gotten them lost.

The junior ranks among the WPIAL’s leading passers three games into a breakout season for a Peters Township team that’s exceeding expectations. The Indians were hit by graduation and faced a number of questions before camp, but they’re 3-0 entering Friday night’s conference opener with South Fayette (2-1).

The Allegheny Six teams meet at 7 p.m. at Peters Township.

“I’m excited where we’re at,” Plack said, “but I also know we’re sitting at 3-0 and we could be 0-1 in the conference real quick. This game means a lot.”

It’s important for South Fayette as well. The Lions aren’t looking for a breakout season but rather a bounce-back one. They went 0-5 in the conference last year and endured their first losing season since 2008.

But the Lions also have a new starter at quarterback, and Nico Lamonde isn’t your typical South Fayette QB. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound dual-threat junior can run the ball, which is a new wrinkle for a team that’s had mostly pocket passers.

Lamonde missed South Fayette’s first two games before returning last week for a 20-19 win over Montour. He threw a 44-yard touchdown pass for the game’s first points but also ran 18 times for 87 yards.

“He has the ability to run it and throw it,” Rossi said. “We’ve run the quarterback more this year than we ever have. We’ve never run the quarterback but he gives us a little added dimension. It helps keep us balanced.”

This season has been somewhat of a style change behind center for both offenses. Rossi said South Fayette has relied on the experience of offensive coordinator Ben Maracek, who has coached running quarterbacks in the past.

“It’s something he has done in previous stints like with (1,500-yard rusher and former Beaver QB) Darius Wise and a couple of other guys,” Rossi said. “It’s fun to see on Saturdays a lot of stuff we do.”

Peters Township has won by surrounding Cibrone with plenty of playmakers. The busiest are wide receiver Brendan McCullough (5-10, 165 pounds) and tailback Richie Woods (5-10, 180), seniors who’ve combined for 10 touchdowns.

Cibrone has completed 53 of 90 passes for 884 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s thrown for more than 300 yards in his past two games, including a 328-yard, four-touchdown effort in a Week 1 win over Seneca Valley.

His top target is McCullough, who has 17 catches and 456 yards, but seven different players have caught a pass.

“(McCullough) is extremely dynamic in the open field,” Plack said. “When people try to tackle him, he’s so shifty. He’s probably one of the most elusive kids I’ve had the opportunity to coach.”

Peters Township’s leading rusher is Woods, who has 341 yards on 46 carries. He had TD runs of 8 and 31 yards in last week’s win.

“We don’t give him the ball enough,” Plack said. “He’s really special. I’ve always ran the ball but myself and the offensive staff, we’re trying to get out of our comfort zone and spread the ball more to our receivers.”

On the other side, South Fayette has more yards rushing than passing.

The Lions’ ground attack is led by running backs Christian Brandi and Nate Deanes, who each have around 100 yards. Drew Welhorsky, a freshman QB who played the first two weeks, also has 100.

Peters Township defeated South Fayette, 35-7, when they met in Week 9 last season. The late-season win let the Indians clinch the conference’s final playoff spot.

A win Friday would be an early boost in a classification where only eight teams make the playoffs.

“It’s always a work in progress with a younger team,” Plack said. “However, we have some guys who’ve opened our eyes. They’re guys we thought we could do some things with and they’re stepping up to the challenge.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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