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History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes.
By the time this story is proofread, posted and available for you to read, the calendar will have turned to Aug. 31, the one-year anniversary of former Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render’s 400th win — against Peters Twp.
It was a 16-14 Panthers’ victory that was ultimately decided by a safety in the second quarter.
The first score of Friday night’s game between the same opponents: a safety.
When Peters Twp. failed to convert a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, the Panthers took over on the 2-inch line and were promptly stopped on the first play for a safety.
The Indians went on to win 29-21 and opened conference play with a win.
The win was momentous, as Peters Twp. had never beaten Upper St. Clair while Render was the head coach, and some believed it may have been the first time Peters has even beaten Upper St. Clair.
“It means a lot, losing to them last year left a bad taste in our mouth,” said senior running back Ryan Magiske. “It was a section loss, and that hurt even more.”
“No one has ever told me anytime that Peters has won (against Upper St. Clair),” said coach TJ Plack. “I’m not sure how much Peters and St. Clair played back then, so it might have been the first win. They were the only team in conference we didn’t beat last year, so that was gratifying.
“But we woke up (last) Sunday morning and they were next on the list. So it didn’t matter who they were, we were focused on this. We’ll have fun with this and we’ll be focused on Woodland Hills next week.”
Last year, a comeback effort fell just short as quarterback Logan Pfeuffer was picked off three times including one in the fourth quarter as the Upper St. Clair defense proved too tough.
This year though, the Indians jumped out to an early 9-0 lead and seemed to come up with the big plays every time they needed them.
The lead was pushed to 23-7, but two Peters mustered just enough offense in the second half to keep the Panthers at arms-length to hold on for the victory.
“We’re trying to be fast-paced, tire them down too, get yards. We did a good job of that,” said Magiske. “I like getting those tough yards, getting through the holes and getting the yards we need to.”
Magiske carried the ball 27 times for 98 yards in the win (3.6 yards per carry, his longest of the night was 13 yards).
Last year’s loss didn’t change the team’s overall trajectory as the Indians had one of the best seasons in school history — eventually losing in the WPIAL semifinals to Penn Hills — but with a lot of returning talent at the skill positions, it meant a lot to get that first section win under their belts and continue what they think will be another great season.
“(Last season) was the breaking point for the season, it made us come together as a team and move one,” said receiver Josh Casilli. “This year, we’re not loud guys, we’re silent assassins as the coaches say. Coaches were nervous coming into the season, but we showed him the first two games that we have his back.”
NOTES FROM THE PRESS BOX
Strong Quarterback Play
There are always moments in a game that call for an experienced play from an experienced player.
Junior quarterback Logan Pfeuffer made those plays Friday night against Upper St. Clair.
Whether it was picked up a big first down, not missing an open receiver on a go-route, or simply possessing the ball for long stretches to preserve a lead, this offense belongs to Pfeuffer, and he ran it to perfection.
“It’s night and day from when we played these guys last year, they really put a lot of pressure on him,” said coach TJ Plack. “He was young, it was really his first experience, the bullets were flying. He grew as the year went on.
“This year, he feels very comfortable, he understands what we want to do. There’s a lot of things we can do no the fly. He’s a young junior, football is his love.”
Late in the second quarter, with the score 9-7, after picking up an Upper St. Clair fumble, the Indians found themselves 1-10 on the 35-yard line with 7:20 remaining in the half.
Twice, Pfeuffer picked up first downs on fourth-down quarterback scrambles on runs of eight and three yards.
The drive culminated in an eight-yard Josh Casilli score, but more importantly, left just 1:40 left on the clock.
Three of his four rushes on the night picked up first downs.
“It’s the first time we had him run the ball in 14 games, we’re saving that, we knew we had to run him a little bit this year to keep teams off base. It was the first time he ran the ball for a first down, and I think it gave him a little bit of confidence.”
“I look at coverages first, I look at the linebackers, but it’s all experience. I got a year under my belt and now I’m a lot more confidence,” said Pfeuffer.
All Hands Team
Friday’s game was a showcase of two of the better receivers in Class-5A.
Josh Casilli caught three passes for 89 yards and a score to go along with a rushing touchdown while Upper St. Clair’s David Pantelis caught eight passes for 156 yards and a score in the losing effort
Casilli was matched up with Pantelis for most of the night, and was able to get the better of him on a few occasions.
“He’s phenomenal,” Plack said. “If we’re ever stuck in a situation, I don’t care who’s on him. He’s a strong, physical competitor. We’ll have him run the quarterback once and a while, just to get him touches.”
Plack said they did not move him around to get him away from the coverage of David Pantelis, but he did line up in the slot and on both ends throughout the game.
“It was fun, I hear stories about him (Pantelis) being really good, he lived up to it,” said Casilli.
Pantelis was left on an island throughout the game and in the first quarter matched up directly with Casilli. The Indians ran several run-pass-options and finally got the experienced corner to bite on a play action.
“That was a choice route, he bit and we made the most of it,” said Casilli.
“I saw the corner bit so hard and Josh passed him by 15 yards, I was like ‘I might as well just chuck it up’,” said Pfeuffer.