Luke Campbell | Observer-Reporter
It’s a pride factor when the forwards of the Peters Township boys soccer team sprint back to help the defensive effort.
When the Indians’ defenders pinch up to help keep a loose ball in the offensive end, it’s a commitment to have an insufferable attack and 11 players working in unison.
The Indians were also in unison when acknowledging that Saturday wasn’t just another state playoff game.
It was an opportunity for revenge and redemption.
Unlike the second half of the WPIAL Class 4A championship game, when the Indians played back and watched their one-goal lead and chance for their 10th WPIAL title slip away to North Allegheny in the final minutes, they weren’t even going to let that be a possibility this time.
Unrelenting offensive and defensive pressure had Peters Township not only dressed in red, but seeing red, as it defeated North Allegheny 3-1 in a quarterfinal game of the PIAA Championships at Fox Chapel High School Saturday afternoon.
“North Allegheny is a very good team, but I don’t think we put forth our best effort in the (WPIAL championship) game,” said Peters Township coach Bobby Dyer. “We wanted to prove a point. I thought we did today.”
The win advances Peters Township (19-1-1) to a semifinal game against District 3 Champion Hempfield, which defeated Council Rock North 1-0 on a goal in the 87th minute, Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
If the Indians win Tuesday, they will play for their fifth state title in program history.
The backbreaker for North Allegheny (20-3-1) came just before the midway point of the second half when a Logan Brinksy cross bounced and bounded in the box before Matthew Stuck found the ball and a wide open net to bury a rebound and put Peters Township up 2-0 with 22:41 remaining.
“Once we got that first goal in the WPIAL championship game we were strictly focused on defending,” said senior midfielder Luke Kelly. “We didn’t attack. We sat back. Today, we didn’t let them have that space and didn’t allow them to breathe. We wanted to play Peters Township soccer.”
Less than a minute-and-a-half later, Bryce Gabelhart received a through ball, split two North Allegheny defenders, scored and joyfully celebrated with his teammates, knowing at that point the game was no longer in doubt.
“We wanted this so bad,” Gabelhart said. “We came out with everything we had. That loss left a bad taste in our mouth but we knew that we were going to see them again.”
Gabelhart helped open the scoring in the 27th minute when he got behind a defender and sent a shallow cross into Brinksy, who was awaiting the ball in the box, to beat North Allegheny goalkeeper Grant Glorioso and give the Indians a 1-0 lead.
Gabelhart finished with a goal and an assist.
“To win big games you have to have your best, or better, players play well,” Dyer said. “Bryce, along with some others, had that type of game today. It was a focal point to put pressure on (North Allegheny’s) backs. We wanted to get into their end, hunt the ball and play with a lot of pressure. I thought we did that very well today.”
But when Peters Township had to defend, it locked down a dangerous Tigers’ team, which had scored 16 goals in their past three games.
Indians senior goalkeeper Derek Deyarmin punched out a North Allegheny cross that was destined for the head of an awaiting NA player. Deyarman then kept the game scoreless later in the first half with a point-blank save on a shot by Cameron Yurick.
But Deyarmin wasn’t as busy as he could have been with the Peters Township defense tightening and forcing several turnovers.
“Our defensive effort was awesome,” Dyer said. “We didn’t give them any time or space to play.”
Senior defender Kyle McFerran led the effort of stopping Jason Luchini and the rest of the Tigers, who scored at least three goals in half of their games this season.
“It was a team effort because all of us defenders had one another’s back,” McFerran said. “We rose to the challenge. We’ve been thinking about this game the whole week and knew it was a business trip. We knew it was going to be tough. But we also knew that if we played our A-game, nobody can beat us.”