Expect fireworks from Penn-Trafford, Peters Township in WPIAL playoff rematch

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 | 6:02 PM

Penn-Trafford and Peters Township had a hard time catching their breath in the first quarter last year when they met in a wild WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinal at West Mifflin.

Yes, there were fireworks.

They combined for 42 points, exchanging big plays and massive gains, and were locked at 21-21 after the opening 12 minutes.

The game was tied 28-28 and 35-35 before the teams settled down after the early hullabaloo and Peters Township rang up a 38-35 victory with the difference being a 26-yard field goal by Brian Bruzdewicz with three seconds remaining.

P-T (11-1) and PT (11-1) meet again Friday night at West Mifflin, but this time it is in the WPIAL semifinals and the winner goes to the championship game next Saturday at Norwin.

Gateway (10-2) and McKeesport (9-3) play in the other semifinal Friday night at Greensburg’s Offutt Field.

“All three phases have to come together for us,” said senior quarterback Gabe Dunlap, who leads the top-seeded Warriors in passing with 1,611 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushing with 1,092 yards and 12 scores. He is the first Warriors player to run and throw for 1,000 yards in a season.

“They are a really good team and they can make big plays.”

Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane harped on the Warriors’ porous special teams play in last year’s season-ending defeat. He knows that area has to improve so the Indians don’t have short fields with which to work.

“We’re not talking about last year’s game,” Ruane said. “They have a lot of guys back, but this year is this year. Yes, we’ve put emphasis on special teams and we have done that all season. It’s very important.”

Peters Township cruised to a pair of playoff wins to get to this point, downing Mars, 47-6, and Moon, 33-7.

“They’re no No. 5 seed. I can tell you that,” Ruane said.

Dunlap rushed for 162 yards in last year’s game.

The Warriors’ do-it-all junior Ethan Carr, who has emerged as one of the top game-changing players in the WPIAL, had a 95-yard kick return score against Peters last year.

Now-senior Caleb Lisbon rushed for 192 yards and two scores, but he has missed most of this season for the Warriors with a knee injury.

The Warriors also scored on a thrilling, hook-and-lateral — Dunlap to Noah Allen to Lisbon.

Penn-Trafford returned its entire line this season, and it has opened holes for several playmakers.

“Our line has been such a big part of what we’ve done,” Dunlap said. “Their line is good too, though. We’ll have to get on our blocks.”

Also in last year’s game, Peters Township’s Aidan McCall, who is back this season, returned a kick 88 yards for a score and Josh Casilli, a key player for the Indians this season, caught a 71-yard bomb from quarterback Logan Pfeuffer, who threw for three scores.

“Peters will be one of the best-coached teams we will see,” Ruane said. “They have six or seven guys who can do damage when they get the ball in their hands. Their coaches will put their athletes in position to be athletic. Their punt wall looks like a chalkboard.”

Peters Township coach T.J. Plack was asked if Friday will produce another shootout.

“I hope not,” he said. “However, there will be a lot of good ball players on the field, so anything is possible. Both defenses are strong and would like to limit the number of scoring options. Either way, I expect a tight one.”

Penn-Trafford has found a way around key injuries with strong play from backups. New faces have emerged to become regulars.

“Our guys have the right attitude and play for each other,” Ruane said. “There are no ‘me’ guys.”

The defenses have been strong on both sides. Peters Township allows 8.3 points a game while Penn-Trafford gives up just 11.2.

“We have to have discipline, be aggressive and stop the run,” Plack said. “They are extremely well-coached. They have the ability with their QB to even the numbers in the run game, and he is able to keep you honest with the pass.”

Offensively, Peters Township’s big three are Pfeuffer, who has passed for 2,102 yards and 25 scores; Ryan Magiske, who has 1,331 yards rushing and 14 TDs; and Casilli, who has 47 catches for 829 yards and 12 TDs (20 TDs overall).

Casilli, a Penn commit, accounted for 183 yards and two touchdowns last week against Moon. He had 129 yards on 15 carries out of the wildcat.

Casilli and Carr could be a matchup to watch.

Carr leads Penn-Trafford with 20 touchdowns — nine receiving, eight rushing and three on returns.

Penn-Trafford has nine first-team all-conference players and Peters Township has eight.

Penn-Trafford last made the WPIAL final in 2017 and lost to Gateway, 21-16, at Heinz Field.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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