Eleanor Bailey | Observer Reporter
Premier players and tradition favor Peters Township this soccer season for the boys squad is loaded with talent and pedigree. Those two ingredients give the Indians the ability to contend for championships.
“We have a nice team, a good team,” head coach Bobby Dyer said. “Expectations are high but I am sure teams like North Allegheny feel the same way.”
Several reasons factor into Peters Township’s ability to compete with the Tigers, who were last year’s WPIAL winners and entered the season ranked No. 1 in the district. For starters there is Bryce Gabelhart, the senior midfielder who led the Indians in scoring with 10 goals and 12 assists last season. He garnered all-district and all-state honors.
When asked if Gabelhart is, as many consider him to be, the “premier player” in the WPIAL, Dyer replied, “he’s one of them.”
“Bryce is one of the best because he has a work rate that is fantastic,” Dyer continued. “He’s skilled and he has a great knowledge of the game. Above all else is his desire and determination to win and work hard.”
Gabelhart is not alone at the top in the district, let alone his team. Regarding the best players in the WPIAL, Dyer continued, “We have a couple of them and they have done a good job of rotating whose better.”
Up front Logan Brinsky dominates. The senior striker registered two goals in a 4-0 win last week against Chartiers Valley, the WPIAL Class AAA champion last year.
Brinsky rivals Gabelhart, said Dyer, “because of his physical attributes.” He added, “Logan’s on-the-ball skills are fantastic.”
Luke Kelly joins the duo. The senior midfielder is already committed to St. Francis (Pa.) University. He and Anthony Kita scored the other goals against the Colts. Kelly also fired in two goals in a 2-1 win Saturday against North Allegheny, the defending WPIAL Quad-A champion.
Many of the other standouts on the team bring history with them in addition to their skills. There’s Matt Stuck, a senior midfielder whose mother, Becky Guna, was a standout for the Lady Indians; Nathan Lopus, a sophomore midfielder, whose father, John, played with Dyer on PT’s state championship clubs in 1988 and 1989; and Derek Deyarmin, a senior goalkeeper, whose brother, Josh, played on PT’s state winner in 2014.
“Our history is important because it builds a sense of family and tradition within the organization,” Dyer said of the program that has produced four state winners and two runners-up.
“The players’ parents are not too far removed from their playing days when they get involved in soccer. They instill in them a desire to play and surpass what their parents have done. It’s a blessing to have that for a program.”
As a result, Dyer is blessed with a wealth of talent that continues on through other key players such as: Kyle McFerran, a senior captain who anchors the defense at central defender; Marty Woelk, another senior defender; and Zachary Sepich, who kicks for the football team and shares goalkeeping duties.
Christian Verner, Joseph Richetti and Anthony Melograne are “talented” players that provide PT depth on defense and enable the Indians to rotate their resources.
Joining Gabelhart, Kelly and Lopus in anchoring the midfield is Tyler Kabo. Meanwhile, Tyler Opferman reinforces the forward line at striker. Kabo and Opferman are both seniors who have bided their time, says Dyer.
“They are not wasting their opportunity,” he added.
Brian Bruzdewicz is a welcome member to the unit of midfielders. The junior provides an impetus for success beyond last year’s 13-2-3 showing that included an appearance in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
Additionally, Nathanael Ross, Mitchell Mindach, Owen Belfiore, James Argent, Spencer Peskorski and John Pituch should help the Indians.
“They energize us and provide competition for positions and that’s not just a good thing for the team but for a program as well,” said Dyer, who noted that everybody on the roster has the ability to fill in. “We’re comfortable with whomever we put in there. It’s good competition.”
Section 2-AAAA provides more than good competition. It represents the best competition in the WPIAL. The division has often produced the PIAA champion, not to mention the district winner.
At Canon-McMillan, coach Larry Fingers has led the Big Macs to two WPIAL titles. Uwe Schneider guided Upper St. Clair to a run of four state titles since 2003. Under Mike Galietta, Bethel Park is ranked among the top teams in the district this fall. PT grad Allen Duda is now the coach at Baldwin and Mt. Lebanon has a long history of soccer dominance since the sport was added to the WPIAL in 1978.
“There is a mutual respect but also a dislike,” said Dyer for the teams in the section. “When teams go into each other stadiums and see each others colors it raises your ire a little bit. All those guys are going to be good.”
While nobody would count them out of contention, the Indians are not necessarily bend on capturing a section banner.
“Obviously, you want to win the section but you want to make the playoffs first,” Dyer said then added, “I would much rather win a WPIAL title than the section.”
Peters Township certainly has done the preparation work toward that goal. Before heading into its section opener Saturday against Baldwin, the Indians played the four WPIAL champions in five of their preseason games. In addition to wins against Sewickley Academy and CV, the Indians tied Central Catholic (2-2) and defeated North Allegheny. Their game at Quaker Valley was postponed.
“We played four quality teams by choice,” Dyer emphasized. “We wanted to find out what we are all about and what we are capable of doing. Can we be competitive night after night?”
At 3-0-1, the Indians learned they can, and they are ready to show the rest of the region just what they are capable of doing.