Special teams shine as Peters Township defeats Bethel Park in 1st-place clash

Saturday, October 19, 2019 | 12:44 AM

Peters Township’s longest touchdown drive covered just 37 yards Friday night, rather short for one of the WPIAL’s top offenses.

Blame that on the team’s defense and special teams.

Given a short field multiple times, Peters Township never needed to go very far. The Indians finished scoring drives of 24, 37 and 37 yards, recorded a safety on defense and also returned a kickoff for a touchdown to defeat host Bethel Park, 30-7, for first place in the Allegheny Eight.

Donovan McMillon’s blocked punt set up Peters Township’s first short scoring drive. Long kick and punt returns preceded the two others.

The Indians also showed that they can cover kicks in what became a field-position battle, downing a first-quarter punt at Bethel Park’s 4-yard line.

“We’ve emphasized special teams,” said senior Josh Casilli, who returned a kickoff 90 yards for one of his two touchdowns. “We set aside more (practice) time for it this year. And our defense has always been solid.”

It was the second week in a row that Casilli scored a special-teams touchdowns.

He and Ryan Magiske each scored twice Friday for Peters Township (8-1, 5-1), which stayed tied with Moon (7-2, 5-1) for first place in the conference.

When Peters Township won the Allegheny Eight title last season, it was the team’s first conference title since 1975. Now, they’re in position to defend that title. Peters Township visits Baldwin (5-4, 4-2) next week.

Bethel Park (5-3, 4-2), which was in first place just two weeks ago, lost for the second week in a row.

“Short fields, a kickoff return for a touchdown, you take a safety and give them another 35-yard field (on the free kick),” Bethel Park coach Brian DeLallo said. “If you look at their drives, they didn’t take it and drive 80 yards down the field on us. The mistakes are correctable, but we keep saying that every week. At some point we’ve got to make those corrections.”

Each team had 10 penalties.

Peters Township didn’t pile up outrageous offensive numbers, finishing with 237 yards on 48 plays. But the Indians were efficient. They had just 28 yards in the entire second quarter but still scored twice to lead 21-7 at halftime.

“I think we won the hidden yardage tonight,” Peters Township coach T.J. Plack said.

Magiske rushed for 113 yards on 18 carries and scored Peters Township’s first two touchdowns on a 5-yard run and an 18-yard catch. The Indians led 14-0 less than a minute into the second quarter after Magiske’s second score.

Casilli’s 90-yard kickoff return gave the Indians a 21-7 halftime lead. The Penn recruit added 5-yard third-quarter touchdown run on a direct snap.

Peters Township quarterback Logan Pfeuffer is a 1,400-yard passer, but the Indians stayed on the ground against Bethel Park, at times with Casilli playing wildcat quarterback.

Combined, Peters Township rushed for 174 yards on 40 carries. Pfeuffer passed for 63 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts.

“We put in a bunch of run plays,” Casilli said. “We knew what we had to do upfront and our guys went away with it.”

Bethel Park had 137 total yards on 46 plays. The team rushed for just 41 yards and passed for 96. Its only touchdown was on a 1-yard, second-quarter run by quarterback Anthony Chiccitt.

DeLallo had wanted to see a better bounce-back effort from his team after last week’s overtime loss to Baldwin. Bethel Park visits rival Upper St. Clair in Week 9.

“If we don’t clean up these mistakes, we’ll be packing up our stuff early,” DeLallo said. “If I need to motivate you to play Upper St. Clair, then you probably shouldn’t be out there.”

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

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