Rivalry games are always big.
They’re even bigger when a playoff spot is on the line.
That was the case Friday night when Peters Township visited Canon-McMillan as an Indians win not only clinched PT’s first postseason appearance since 2010, but also eliminated Canon-McMillan from playoff contention.
With a quick start from their offense and a solid effort from their defense, the Indians punched their ticket to the playoffs with a 28-14 Southeastern Conference win.
The win locks Peters Township (4-2, 6-3) into third place in the conference and marks the Indians’ first winning season since 2010. Making a return to the playoffs is huge for a Peters Township program that has finished above .500 only three times since 2000.
“I feel good for the kids,” Peters Township head coach T.J. Plack said. “I told them something I have never told a team before, and that is that this game defines your season. If we would have come out here and lost this game, no one would have considered that Peters Township football has truly arrived.
“We did what we had to do. We came out and put some up points up in the first half and survived in the second. We are going to finish third in the conference. We are a good team.”
PT quarterback Jake Cortes threw for 347 yards and a pair of touchdowns and running back Ryan Magiske found the end zone twice on the ground to pace the Indians attack.
“We wanted to come in here and hit them first,” Cortes said. “We wanted to get up on them fast and we came out and did that.”
Canon-Mac (2-4, 4-5) made a game out of it late, cutting the Peters Township lead to 21-14 when Jonathan Quinque hooked up with Greyden Piechnick with a 13-yard touchdown with 3:08 left in the fourth quarter.
It was the second time on the night the duo hooked up for a score.
Quinque finished with 253 passing yards, completing 20 of 37 attempts.
But one play after the second Canon-McMillan touchdown, the Indians secured the victory when Cortes connected with Angelo Quarture with an 80-yard touchdown to make it a 28-14 game.
“Angelo is a special kid,” Cortes said. “He’s one of the toughest kids on the team and he pulled through huge for us.”
The Indians started quickly, taking advantage of a short field, driving 53 yards in eight plays, taking a 7-0 lead on their first possession of the game when Ryan Magiske scored from seven yards.
Magiske had a good night, rushing for 104 yards on 20 carries.
PT rushed for only 19 yards on 22 carries a week ago against Mt. Lebanon.
“We are a run-first team,” Plack said. “We are able to do some things off the run with our play-action, but we wanted to come out and establish the run.”
The Indians hit a big play on their second possession when Cortes found Quarture for a 73-yard touchdown pass, capping a two-play 75-yard drive.
Quarture had a busy night, finishing with 187 receiving yards.
“It feels really good to be heading to the playoffs,” Cortes said. “As a senior leader, this has been three or four years in the making.”
That was all the scoring in the first half as both defenses tightened up.
“We missed some plays,” Plack said. “We could have been up 28-0, but stalled inside the 30 a few times. We have to work on that.”
Canon-McMillan cut the gap to 14-7 in the third quarter when Quinque hit Piechnick with an eight-yard touchdown pass.
The Big Macs kept it close, but a botched punt in their own end zone gave the Indians the ball at the C-M 14-yard line and Magiske scored for the second time, from five yards, to extend the PT lead to 21-7.
PT outgained the Big Macs 490-209 in the first half, limiting CM to minus-40 yards rushing. The Indians’ defense sacked Quinque 10 times on the night.
Quarture and Shane O’Connell each had three sacks.
“Those guys have been playing lights out on the defensive side of the ball all year,” said Plack. “I think we took them out of the run and make them throw it a lot more than they probably wanted to. Hats off to our defense. They have been tremendous.”
Canon-McMillan coach Mike Evans was not immediately available for comment after the game.
Matt Shetler – Observer Reporter
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