South Xtra: Peters, USC in a battle for first place
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In many sports and in various leagues, fans have to wait weeks and even months for marquee, hotly contested games to take place.
But for those who follow the WPIAL's Class AAAA Southeastern Conference, a game that could help decide the conference champion comes in just the season's third week as Upper St. Clair travels to Peters Township in a game that pits the two squads tied atop the conference standings.
Both teams enter the game undefeated and have achieved those respective records in impressive fashion.
Upper St. Clair, the third-ranked team in Class AAAA, is fresh off a 50-0 trouncing of Canon-McMillan, making it the second consecutive week in which the Panthers scored at least 30 points. They also defeated Woodland Hills, 31-12, in the season opener.
After opening its season with a dominant 40-12 victory against Baldwin, Peters Township leaned on its defense last Friday as it put away Penn Hills, 14-0, on the road. Both teams, in fact, have benefited from strong defenses, as the Panthers and Indians have each given up just 12 points this season.
Despite the obvious implications of the game, Peters Township coach Rich Piccinni, while understanding of the game's importance, just sees it as the next game on his team's schedule.
"We don't consider it a make-or-break game," he said. "We're just taking it one game at a time -- not looking back and not looking forward. We're very excited to be a part of a game of this magnitude."
While the Panthers have a slew of talented players up and down their roster, nobody concerns Piccinni more than quarterback Pete Coughlin. A dual threat, Coughlin has passed for three touchdowns this season and run for an additional three, making him the central figure in an explosive offense that has already racked up 81 points in two games.
Piccinni, who was formerly an assistant coach at Upper St. Clair, knows that the game could very well be won or lost on how well his defense contains Coughlin.
"I know a lot of what they do on offense," he said. "Their quarterback is their main weapon -- he can hurt you with his arm and he can really hurt you running the ball.
"He's always the main concern of ours. We have to stop him to win this game."
Kickoff is scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m.
While much of the discussion of running backs in the PG's South Xtra region revolves around Baldwin's Dorian Brown, many other rushers in the area are off to excellent starts to the 2012 season.
In fact, through two games, five running backs in the region have tallied more than 300 yards -- Washington's Shai McKenzie, Ringgold's Demetrius Louis, Brentwood's Justin Vickless, Peters Township's Mike Minjock, as well as Brown.
Brown leads the group with 360 rushing yards on the season, but not far behind him are Louis with 355 yards, McKenzie with 347 yards and Vickless with 317 yards.
Additionally, all but one of those five players have rushed for more than 200 yards in a game this season. Minjock ran for 247 against Baldwin, Brown went off for 234 against Plum, McKenzie put up 211 against Greensburg Central Catholic and Louis notched 210 in Ringgold's win against Laurel Highlands. Steel Valley's D'Andre Pickens also ran for 200 yards in the season's first week.
It's no secret by now that the Clairton football team is a talented one -- 49 consecutive victories is more than enough evidence to back that up -- and Division I colleges have certainly taken notice of that fact.
With the recent commitment of senior wide receiver Terrish Webb to Kent State, the Bears now have three players on their roster who figure to end up on Division I-A rosters. Fellow senior wideout Titus Howard has already committed to Pitt and senior running back Tyler Boyd has offers from 18 Division I-A schools, 16 of which are in BCS conferences.
It's far from uncommon for a WPIAL school to have a few players who end up playing at college football's highest level, but rarely are those schools in Class A. Then again, as has been proven the past several years, this is far from an average Class A team.
Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012