Not Your Typical Underdog: Now-Healthy No. 11 Peters Looking for Playoff Push
WEST VIEW, Pa. — In the 12-team WPIAL Class-5A playoffs, Peters Township is not your typical 11-seed. This is a team that was consistently found in the top five of anyone’s preseason rankings, and while they fought injuries throughout the year, they are getting healthy and playing their best ball right now. That was showcased in a 33-28 playoff win over No. 6 seed North Hills that gave Peters four straight wins, and a trip into the WPIAL quarterfinals.
“We think we are peaking at the right time,” admitted Peters Township Head Coach T.J. Plack. “I wasn’t worried about what seed we were, I was more worried about who we were playing. We played some good teams and had some injuries, but I really do think we are putting it together at the right time.”
Injuries to quarterback Sam Miller and defensive star/tight end Luke Petrarca highlighted two of the more notable losses that caused Peters to fall into an 0-3 drought through early October losses to Moon, Upper St. Clair, and Bethel Park.
However, the head coach admitted that after Miller was banged up, they adjusted to his skill set. Petrarca missed most of the season but has been healthy in the past month, and they are now 4-0 with him back, and onto their next playoff game.
“Once (Sam) got back from being injured we found what he’s good at, and what he can’t do, we kind of scrapped that,” stated Plack. “He’s a good runner, he improvises very well, he finds guys on the deep ball, he’s got good vision like that, but he’s not just gonna sit there and read the whole field.”
Getting Miller on the move and letting him be a playmaker was what Peters Township needed to do, and did. This showed in a big way against North Hills. Miller hit Jacob Macosko for a 70-yard touchdown and a 53-yard bomb that led to a touchdown. Miller hit Bryce Thompson for a big gain as well and ran in a touchdown on a quarterback sneak.
“Me and Sam have a great connection,” said Macosko of his teammate. “We worked all summer to build that up and he just got me the ball and we made plays.”
Beyond a healthy quarterback who is now playing to his strength, the star of the defense Luke Petrarca was clearly missed. He made his presence felt from the first snap of the game and ended the first drive with a turnover on a strip-sack.
“Our coach always says make the quarterback see ghosts and feel pain,” added Petrarca of his tenacious mindset entering the game.
Petrarca did not stop there. He had a sack, a tackle for loss, batted a ball at the line of scrimmage, and forced North Hills to chip block, and double team him at times. His presence threw North Hills out of rhythm and opened up pass rush lanes for others. All of a sudden the quarterback was seeing ghosts and feeling the pain of the PT defense.
“He’s a playmaker,” admitted Plack on the presence that Petrarca showed. “He is just a tough block, he gets after the quarterback and he’s tremendous in the run game. He has only been back the past couple of weeks but we are glad to have him back.”
His return has completely flipped the demeanor of the Peters Township defense, and it could not have happened at a better time. Peters Township now has a game on the road as the No. 11 seed against No. 3 seed Pine-Richland. This is a familiar foe, as this was the Class-5A final in 2020 with Pine-Richland taking home the championship. Both teams hit bumps in the road this season, and while PR righted the ship faster, Peters Township is out for revenge, and to show the rest of the WPIAL that they were always a top-tier contender, they just took longer than some to hit their stride.
“We owe them one for last year,” exclaimed Macosko. “We knew that we were way better than an 11 seed. We knew that 5-A would be wide open this year, so now anything can happen.”