Peters Township’s dynamic defense downs top-seeded Penn-Trafford in Class 5A semis

Friday, November 15, 2019 | 10:39 PM

It wasn’t the offensive explosion last year’s quarterfinal was, but defense stole the show this time for Peters Township in a playoff rematch with Penn-Trafford.

And the result was the same.

The fifth-seeded Indians forced five turnovers and used that momentum to do all of their scoring in the second half and roll past the top-seeded Warriors, 28-10, in the WPIAL Class 5A semifinals Friday night at West Mifflin.

Ryan Magiske and Aidan McCall each scored two touchdowns — one on each side of the ball — to lead the Indians (12-1) to their first WPIAL championship game.

Peters Township will play Gateway (11-2) at 6 p.m. next Saturday at Norwin for the title.

Penn-Trafford ends the season at 11-2. The Warriors took a 3-0 lead into halftime before the Indians swarmed to take command with an opportunistic defense.

“We talk about getting three turnovers a game, and we did that tonight. Our defense played great,” said McCall, who caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Logan Pfeuffer and later returned an interception 31 yards for a score.

Magiske scored two third-quarter touchdowns — on a short rush and a 43-yard fumble recovery — as the Indians slowly peeled away from the Warriors.

“We have five really good defensive backs, and they don’t just play back. They come after you,” Peters Township coach T.J. Plack said. “They tend to be in the right spots to make plays.”

With Penn-Trafford trailing 7-3, Chase Vecchio caught a pass from Gabe Dunlap late in the third quarter.

But Vecchio could not hold on and fumbled.

Magiske recovered and raced down the far sideline for the score to give the Indians a 14-3 lead.

“We knew they had a fast defense coming in,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “They have some game-changers. It’s funny to say a team has playmakers on defense, but that is what they have. They ultimately made more big plays in the second half.”

McCall, who had two interceptions on the night, pulled in a 29-yard scoring pass from Pfeuffer to give the Indians a 21-3 advantage with 9 minutes, 46 seconds remaining in the fourth.

Penn-Trafford finally got the ball into the end zone about 20 seconds later when Dunlap found Ethan Carr for a 13-yard touchdown. It was the first score allowed by the Peters defense in four-plus games.

But McCall stepped in front of a Dunlap throw for a 31-yard pick-6 with 4:37 to play.

“The only thing I saw in front of me was the end zone,” McCall said.

Carr caught nine passes for 119 yards and the touchdown.

Dunlap finished 11 of 25 for 161 yards and four interceptions and ran for 87 yards. He had seven interceptions coming into the game.

“We moved the football in the first half, but you have to score points against a team like that,” Ruane said. “We needed to take a bigger lead into the half.”

The first half was a far cry from last year’s opening 24 minutes when when the teams took a 28-28 tie into the break. It was 21-21 after the first quarter as they traded lengthy kick returns and big plays before Peters posted a 38-35 victory, also at West Mifflin.

“I thought our defense played really well tonight,” Ruane said. “But we needed to run the ball better. We don’t want to get into a situation where we’re just throwing the ball. That’s not us.”

This time, the Warriors only could manage a field goal from Nathan Schlessinger to take a 3-0 edge into halftime.

A couple of bad snaps foiled the Indians early as Pfeuffer lost 10 and 19 yards to force an early punt.

Donovan McMillon intercepted Dunlap, but the Indians could not do much with it. They also struggled to move the ball after forcing the Warriors to turn the ball over on downs late in the first half. They stuffed Dunlap on fourth and short at the Indians’ 13.

Schlessinger had another shot at a field goal in the closing seconds of the half, but his 34-yard attempt sailed wide left.

Peters Township managed just 40 yards in the first half.

“We made some adjustments and did some things much better in the second half,” Plack said.

The Indians looked like a different team after the break.

Nico Pate had the fourth pick for the Indians on a tipped ball with 3:44 left.

Pfeuffer threw for 102 yards, McCall had four catches for 57 yards and Magiske ran for 51.

“There have been a lot of firsts for us lately,” Plack said of his team’s two-year surge. “We won a conference title, made the semis and now we’re in the final. We keep climbing mountains. Hopefully we reach the top of one more mountain. I want to see what’s at the top.”

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

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