Everyone on Peters Township High School’s football team knew that success for this season would only come if the Indians hit the ground running.
And that’s just what they did – especially quarterback Cory Owen.
The 6-2, 195-pound junior put on a spectacular display in a 33-28 victory over Baldwin last week, rambling for 246 yards on 17 carries and scoring three touchdowns. And Peters Township head coach Rich Piccinini said that number could have easily been higher.
“He had some runs wiped out because of penalties,” he said. “We had 16 of them in the game, 11 in the first half.”
Still, the Week 1 win was important because it came against a Class AAAA Southeastern Conference opponent, not exactly the way most coaches want to start a season but a fact of life in the nine-team conference.
“You get thrown right into the fire in this conference,” said Piccinini, who has led PT into the playoffs the past two seasons. “You have to be ready.”
With Owen at quarterback, the Indians feel they are ready for the long haul. Next up is a home game at 7:30 p.m. today against a tough Penn Hills team coming off a 39-17 victory over Canon-McMillan. A win against Penn Hills would catapult the Indians into another conference showdown with powerhouse Upper St. Clair in Week 3.
There’s no time for a breather.
“We watched film countless times on Penn Hills,” Piccinini said. “We’ve seen what they’ve done. It’s always an advantage the more prepared you are for a team. We just have to go out and play.”
And it might be an advantage to turn Owen loose on the Penn Hills’ defense. His rushing total was the fourth best in the WPIAL in Week 1, 12 yards ahead of Washington’s Shai McKenzie, who had 234 in a win over Greensburg Central Catholic.
“We just looked at their defense and found the plays that worked,” said Owen, who despite having another year in high school is getting mail from schools such as Pitt, Rutgers, Temple and all the MAC programs.
“We knew we could utilize our running game, and it worked.”
Owen had three of Peters Township’s five touchdowns, including the final two in a fourth quarter where 47 of the game’s 61 points were scored. Owen got 106 of his 246 yards on two touchdown runs, a 59-yarder that made it 20-7 and a 47-yarder that gave PT a 26-14 edge. He later scored on a two-yard run that made it 33-21.
“Our offensive line really helped out a lot,” Owen said. “It all had to do with effort.”
Piccinini said the score might have been a little misleading because Peters Township had to use some back-ups late in the game.
“Our defense played really good for 3 1/2 quarters, then we started cramping up,” he said. “We got away from our assignments, and let them throw on us. Sometimes, we were good; sometimes, we were bad. We had 500 total yards, and we could have had 700 if we didn’t have the penalties.”
Piccinini is not so concerned about that because he believes those are correctable errors.
“It was mixed. They were aggressive penalties,” he said. “We reinforce to the kids what we have to do. We talk about the next time and here’s what you have to do.”
Junior defensive tackle Christian Phelps had four tackles and made a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter that helped turn the game around. Peters Township also got strong efforts from linebackers Ken Ward and Cody Sheets and defensive end Greg Watts.
“We had some mistakes,” Piccinini said, “but the important thing is that we came out of it 1-0.”