Peters Township coach Rich Piccinini pulled out his cell phone as he walked off the field last Friday, and quickly saw it had been bombarded by congratulatory text messages from alumni, parents and fans.
Yeah, it's safe to say his team had won a big one.
In what Piccinini called a "huge program win," Peters Township outlasted visiting Mt. Lebanon, 39-35.
Peters Township's victory was significant for two reasons. One, it put the Indians in position to reach the postseason for the third year in a row. A loss would have greatly lessened those odds. Secondly, it was a rare win for Peters Township against Mt. Lebanon. How rare? Well, Piccinini said it was the first time the Indians have done it ... ever!
A huge program win indeed.
"The kids really stepped up," Piccinini said. "It was a game we told our guys we absolutely needed to win. They came up big."
Junior quarterback Cory Owen was the ringleader of Peters Township's offensive assault. Owen rushed 176 yards and scored on touchdown runs of 1, 9, 38 and 32 yards. Senior running back Marcus Ubinger also responded with 194 yards and a touchdown. After going ahead, 12-7, in the first quarter, Peters Township never trailed, but Mt. Lebanon was always within striking distance.
Peters Township now has a playoff berth within its reach. In WPIAL Class AAAA, the top five teams in each of the three conferences make the playoffs. Also qualifying will be one sixth-place team, which will be determined by the WPIAL's "wild card" system.
Peters Township (4-3 overall) is in fifth place in the Southeastern Conference with a 3-3 record. Just behind the Indians are Baldwin and Mt. Lebanon, both of which are 2-4. The Indians own wins against both.
Peters Township closes out the regular season with games against Woodland Hills (5-1) and Canon-McMillan (1-5). Baldwin plays Canon-McMillan and Bethel Park (5-2). Mt. Lebanon finishes with Penn Hills (4-2) and Upper St. Clair (6-0).
So, if Peters Township is to win one of its next two games, it will send the Indians to the postseason. Even if they lose both, they could still get in.
"Our goal has been to go to the playoffs and advance in the playoffs," said Piccinini, who is in his third season. "If we get in, which we anticipate, it will be our third in a row. It's something our players are starting to expect, which is good. It's good these kids are expecting to win games and make it to the playoffs."
When the Peters Township offense is clicking, it can be potent. The Indians have scored 33, 48, 35 and 39 points in their wins. But they've also been shut out twice. Overall, the Indians have been outscored, 171-170.
Brentwood keeps fighting
If Brentwood is to reach the WPIAL playoffs for the sixth season in a row, it will be quite an accomplishment.
Brentwood has overcome a rash of key injuries to be in the thick of the playoff chase in the Class A Black Hills Conference, where the top four teams will advance to the postseason.
The Spartans (4-4 overall) sit in fifth place with a 4-3 record and conclude the regular season with games at Bishop Canevin (1-6) and California (3-4). Ahead of Brentwood are Monessen, Clairton and Fort Cherry -- all of which are 6-1 -- and Chartiers-Houston (5-2). Brentwood beat Chartiers-Houston, 47-21, on Sept. 27. Chartiers-Houston still must play Monessen at home and at Fort Cherry.
Brentwood coach Kevin Kissel is confident his team will head to the playoffs should they win their final two games.
"I told our kids that we can control our own destiny," Kissel said. "I said, 'You go out and do what you have to do, and we'll make the playoffs.'"
The Spartans, a WPIAL quarterfinalist three of the past four seasons, got some bad news before the season even started when star running back Justin Vickless tore an ACL in August. Vickless had rushed for nearly 2,500 yards and 39 touchdowns the past two seasons. Vickless attempted to play through the injury -- he rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns in five games -- but elected to have season-ending surgery two weeks ago.
Among the other players who missed multiple games were fullback Ryan Shortley and senior wide receiver Jack Murano. Both have since returned.
One player who has stepped up in a big way is junior quarterback Connor McWilliams. A first-year starter, McWilliams has completed 84 of 156 passes for 1,299 yards and nine touchdowns. Running backs Pat Carr and Bill Madeja have keyed the ground game. Carr rushed for 128 yards and two touchdown in last week's 35-13 win against Carlynton.
First Published October 16, 2013 8:00 PM