Short on seniors, Peters Township looks for next wave to take over

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022 | 8:01 AM


Senior night promises to be a short affair at Peters Township.

The football team has only five seniors, so coach T.J. Plack will turn to his junior and sophomore classes to fill some leading roles as the Indians seek a sixth straight trip to the WPIAL playoffs.

“Depth will be an issue,” said Plack, who’s entering his seventh season. “We have some good young kids in our junior class and sophomore class. They’re just inexperienced and there are a lot of question marks.”

The team has more than 20 players in every other grade, but the Indians’ senior class dwindled over the years. Plack said it’s the smallest group of seniors he’s had, including his time at South Fayette.

“I’m not quite sure why,” Plack said. “Kids left for various reasons.”

The Indians are coming off a 7-5 season. They went 2-3 in the Allegheny Six to finish fourth, earned a playoff spot and reached the WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinals.

That roster was heavy in seniors with 24 on the team. When that group graduated, it took away quarterback Sam Miller, a 2,000-yard passer, and leading receiver Jacob Macosko, who had 51 catches and 10 touchdowns.

So, they’ll make the most of what they’ve got.

“With this team, we’re looking to find leaders,” Plack said. “We’re looking to improve each and every week. And we’re looking to answer some of the questions and fit the pieces into the team we do have.”

In all, the team has only a handful of starters back.

Three seniors are returning starters — Roman Costanza (6-foot-1, 280 pounds) on the offensive line, Richie Woods at running back and Brendan McCullough at slot receiver and cornerback. Woods rushed for more than 900 yards last season. Two juniors, defensive lineman Jake Velgich and wide receiver Carter Shanafelt, also return as starters.

“Those are really the only known quantities that we do have,” Plack said.

The senior class may be small, but the group is willing to take on big responsibilities.

“We need to take it upon ourselves to really show these young kids what it’s like to be up on varsity and for them to also be leaders,” Costanza said. “They need to know what it takes to be a starter, so we can win games this season.”

Costanza said his class had around 15 players freshman year but they weren’t all committed to the sport, so that number started to shrink down to five.

“I’m not shocked,” he said, “but it is unfortunate.”

On the bright side, that should make for an interesting camp. With so few seniors and only a handful of starters coming back, that’s a recipe for hotly contested position battles.

“It’s exciting to see all these young guys that I’ve worked with for years getting their opportunity and working so hard for these positions,” Costanza said. “I think it’s going to lead to a really good year.”

Some jobs could remain in flux for a while.

“It’s probably going to take us a couple of weeks with the pads on to find out who those guys are,” Plack said. “That’s fun as a staff to sit in these personnel meetings and say, ‘Hey, I like this kid for this reason.’ I told my coaches, ‘Don’t tell me what they can’t do. Tell me what they can do well and we’ll put them in the right position.’”

The Indians have two options at quarterback. Junior Chris Cibrone was behind center all summer, and Plack said he did well during 7-on-7 passing scrimmages. He’ll enter the fall as the team’s starter, but 6-2 freshman Nolan DiLucia could see snaps later in the year.

If there is a strength, it’s that the roster has an abundance of young, skill-position players, Plack said. That list includes juniors Ethan Wertman, Nate Miller and Thomas Aspinall. All three could play wide receiver and defensive back.

The Indians also plan to use a number of sophomores, but Plack said he’s conscious to not overwork them.

“I can’t ask a sophomore to play both ways for 10 games,” he said. “We’re going to have to be pretty smart with our personnel. Who’s in on defense? Who’s been in on offense? Spelling guys, giving guys breathers, because they’re pretty young. They’re only 15 or 16. We don’t have 17- or 18-year-old kids.

“It will be a different kind of year.”

Peters Township

Coach: T.J. Plack

2021 record: 7-5, 2-3 in Class 5A Allegheny Six Conference

All-time record: 262-332-16

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 at Fox Chapel, 7

9.2 at Seneca Valley, 7

9.9 Trinity, 7

9.16 South Fayette*, 7

9.23 at Upper St. Clair*, 7

9.30 Baldwin*, 7

10.7 at Moon*, 7

10.14 Mt. Lebanon, 7

10.21 at Canon-McMillan, 7

10.28 at Bethel Park*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Sam Miller*

166-271, 2,093 yards, 18 TDs

Rushing: Richie Woods

132-953, 6 TDs

Receiving: Jacob Macosko*

51-714, 10 TDs

FAST FACTS

• The Indians faced two eventual state champions in nonconference games last season. They lost to PIAA 6A champ Mt. Lebanon, 31-0, in Week 2, and defeated 5A champ Penn-Trafford, 28-14, in Week 3.

• Plack is 48-21 in his first six seasons as Peters Township’s coach with five playoff appearances.

• Woods was named second-team all-conference at running back last season. Costanza earned honorable mention honors at guard.

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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