Luke Campbell | Observer-Reporter
The eight most important minutes for the Peters Township High School boys soccer team might have come when the Indians weren’t even on the field for their first-round game of the PIAA Class 4A playoffs at Fairview High School.
Senior attackers Logan Brinksy and Tyler Opferman each put their hands on their head in disbelief and frustration. They knew that the first half might have been one of the worst Peters Township has played this season.
But what they realized during the eight minutes of welcoming warmth inside the locker room at halftime was that the next 40 minutes could be their last.
“The kids had the realization that they wasted 40 minutes of soccer by not playing as hard as they could,” Peters Township coach Bobby Dyer said after a two-and-a-half hour bus ride that led to a lackadaisical first half.
“With only having, at most, eight halves left this season, we definitely wasted one of them.”
Peters Township didn’t waste the second half as it tightened up defensively, played its unrelenting attacking style and got a goal from Brinksy to defeat District 10 champion Erie McDowell, 1-0, and advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals against North Allegheny at a site and time to be determined.
“You just never know when it’s going to be your last game,” Brinksy said. “This could have been it for us because we were a slow in the beginning. We have to come out and bring our all every single game.”
Battling with a McDowell defender, Brinksy eventually collected a Matthew Stuck throw-in from the far sideline, turned with possession and put a shot past goalkeeper Hector Corrales to score the only goal with 32:24 remaining.
“It has worked a lot for us this season,” Stuck said about moving up from his midfield position to execute the long throws from the sideline into the box.
“It’s almost like a free corner kick.”
The long throws from Stuck were welcomed by Dyer, who saw the Indians have only two corner kicks the entire game, their first coming in the second half.
“(Matthew) does a great job putting the ball in the mix, and it then becomes a desire level to go get it,” Dyer said. “Over the course of the season we’ve had some good chances from it.”
The chances continued for Peters Township (18-1-1) seven minutes later when a shot skipped over an attacking Corrales and nearly rolled into the net before McDowell’s Leonard McLaughlin booted the ball out of bounds, keeping the score at 1-0.
“After that goal we picked it up a little bit,” Brinksy said. “We were able to start playing better and had a little bit of urgency.”
Urgency didn’t register for McDowell (11-6-2) until the midway point in the second half, after which Indians goalkeeper Derek Deyarmin made several saves to preserve the one-goal lead.
Deyarmin was up to the task on a sneaky shot to the near post on an awkward angle from the Trojans’ Braden DeLullo in the 62nd minute. He also made a leaping, one-handed save on a blistering shot from McDowell’s Trent May, which was seemingly destined to slip under the crossbar, with only 6:37 remaining.
The Indians defeated Pine-Richland 4-1 in the semifinal round of the WPIAL playoffs and lost to North Allegheny 2-1 in the final minutes of the championship game at Highmark Stadium last Thursday.
“I thought we played well enough to win in both games,” Dyer said. “Familiarity sometimes is a good thing. Sometimes, like in hockey, when you play back-to-back, or close to it, it starts to create some animosity.”
For Stuck and PT’s 13 other seniors, it’s about making sure the next match isn’t their final one.
“After that loss (to North Allegheny) everyone became more motivated,” Stuck said. “It’s in the back of our mind. It’s a chip on our shoulder.”