Petrarca, Peters Township defense blitz Woodland Hills

Friday, October 30, 2020 | 11:22 PM

Peters Township’s offense put enough points on the board to top Woodland Hills. As a matter of fact, so did the Indians’ defense.

The third-seeded Indians got a pair of defensive touchdowns from junior linebacker Luke Petrarca and recorded two safeties on the way to a 39-6 win over visiting No. 6 Woodland Hills on Friday in the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals.

It was another stingy performance for the Indians (7-0), who have held five of seven opponents to seven points or fewer this season. They limited the Wolverines (5-3) to six points after shutting Woodland Hills out in regular-season meetings the past two seasons.

“We realize we have a very good defensive team, and if they’re not the highest-scoring defense in the WPIAL, they’ve got to be two or three,” Indians coach T.J. Plack said. “We understand that, but we like what we can do on special teams with hidden yardage, so we don’t have to do a lot on offense. We’re going to run the ball and hit some splash plays every now and then.”

The big plays started early for Peters Township, which already led 6-0 before their defense took the field.

Woodland Hills fumbled on their first offensive play, and the Indians recovered at the Wolverines’ 31. Four plays later, Nico Pate scored his second touchdown to make it 13-0.

The defense struck again when Petrarca dropped into coverage to intercept Deonta Williams’ pass to the outside, and the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder zipped upfield for a 20-0 lead just 5 minutes, 49 seconds into the game.

Petrarca’s second score came with a heads-up play to open the third quarter.

Williams rushed to the outside and was tackled, but the ball came out, and officials ruled he was laying on top of bodies and not down. That allowed the player Peters Township coaches call “Big Baby” to make a savvy veteran play, taking the ball to the end zone for a second time and making the score 28-6.

“He just has that face, if you see him, he’s like a big baby with a football helmet on,” Plack said of Petrarca. “He’s very nonchalant about everything and can act slow and lethargic, but they say he’s the fastest kid we have on the team. He’s special, and he makes plays.”

With the big lead, Peters Township was able to grind out the clock.

Pate finished with 112 yards on 20 carries, and quarterback Logan Pfeuffer added 65 yards on the ground. The defense added four more points with safeties on a sack and an intentional grounding call in the end zone, and it finished off the game with an interception by Bryce Thompson.

Woodland Hills showed some fight after falling into the early hole, and it got on the board before halftime on a 2-yard run by Williams.

The junior quarterback finished with 94 passing yards and another 42 rushing.

The turnovers were too much to overcome, however, and the Wolverines never appeared comfortable throwing the ball as often as they needed.

“Going into halftime, they missed a field goal, and that gave us energy, and we were moving the ball,” Wolverines coach Tim Bostard said. “But when you fall behind, it’s hard to establish the run game, and we had to throw the ball a bit. I’m not taking anything away from (Peters), they’re a great team, and I think we had a pretty good season.”

The win sets up a semifinal rematch of last year’s WPIAL championship.

The Indians will face yet another athletic squad in Gateway (5-0), which topped them 21-20 in the 2019 final.

“We played (Woodland Hills) last year. We played Gateway last year, so we’re familiar,” Plack said. “You just have to know plays can break down a little, so you have to be focused, have contain, things like that, and don’t put yourself in bad situations.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Matt Grubba is a contributing writer.

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