RECAP/STATS: Peters Pummels Baldwin, 40-12
The Highlanders lose five fumbles to the host Indians. Quarterback Altavilla shaken up.
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The final score was as ugly as the Highlanders looked on Friday night—or, as beautiful as the Indians looked, depending on which colors you wear.
Senior running back Mike Minjock returned after missing all of the 2011 season with a ligament tear in his right knee to rush for a career-high 244 yards and four touchdowns on just 19 carries, and the hosts from Peters Township High School (1-0, 1-0) romped visiting Baldwin High School (0-1, 0-1), 40-12, in both teams' first-ever WPIAL AAAA Southeastern Conference football game.
Minjock deflected praise onto his teammates in an interview after the game, saying that his offensive line simply opened up holes big enough for him to run through.
But Minjock ran through some would-be Baldwin tacklers, as well, including at least a couple on Peters' very first offensive play of the game—a 58-yard TD jaunt by the muscular, compact upperclassman.
The Indians would never trail.
"They opened holes for me, and I just went through 'em," Minjock said. "I broke a couple tackles, but I need to do that to be a running back, you know?
"I feel great. It's great to be back."
Baldwin, which lost three fumbles to Peters in a playoffs-hopes-crushing 21-6 loss last year, upped that feat to five lost fumbles on Friday, including a pivotal miscue by senior running back Dorian Brown on first-and-goal at the Peters five-yard line with just over a minute to play in the first half.
The Highlanders were trailing only 13-6 at the time, which is how the score ended up looking after two quarters.
"We've turned the ball over 20 times against Peters in the last three years," Baldwin's Head Coach Jim Wehner said, exaggerating only slightly. "Not that we win the game (without the fumbles), but with five turnovers, we can't beat anybody."
Much like for most of 2011, Brown was Baldwin's biggest offensive weapon on Friday. He answered Minjock's opening TD run with a long one of his own, getting behind Peters' defenders quickly and outracing them for an 85-yard score with 3 minutes, 32 seconds left in the first quarter.
But other than that and a six-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter when the outcome was no longer in doubt, Brown was held mostly in check for the bulk of the game. Ninety-one of his rushing yards came on his two TDs, but he totaled just 37 yards on his other 17 carries—an average of 2.2 per tout.
"We talked about shutting down Dorian Brown," Peters' Head Coach Rich Piccinini said. "We blitzed him. We sat at home and waited for him. He's the key to their team.
"Our goal all week—as a matter of fact, for the last two years—was to stop him. We did a fairly good job. We let up one play to him, but execution-wise, we were good."
The Indians easily controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and outgained Baldwin, 405-275, including 343 rushing yards to the Highlanders' 172.
"We didn't play well defensively," Wehner said. "I can't say we played well anywhere. We come into this game thinking that we can compete, and we got our butts kicked up front. I think that's where it all starts.
"There's not too much you can do when you're not blocking and tackling.
"We're getting back to basics starting tomorrow morning ... because we can't get any worse. We're gonna try to get better every day."
Piccinini said that he did not expect a 40-12 final score, but he was not surprised to come away with a win.
"We knew we could score," he said, "and we knew we could hold them. At halftime, it didn't look like it was gonna be that big of a margin, but we executed in all three phases of the game.
"We're happy with 40-12. Did we expect that score exactly? No, but we knew, if we played our game, we could succeed like that."
The Highlanders picked up their new placekicker—soccer player Yahya Badjie—on Tuesday, and it showed. Badjie, a junior, missed both of his extra-point attempts—the second one was blocked—and his first kickoff traveled just 34 yards.
The Indians' kicker—senior Joe Sala—didn't fare much better, also missing two (of six) point-after tries.
Baldwin struggled to pass the ball well, too, as sophomore quarterback Doug Altavilla completed just seven of 16 passes for 56 yards while being sacked four times, including the one that knocked him out of the game early in the fourth quarter.
"Doug got drilled," Wehner said. "He was a little woozy, so that's why we sat him out. He got blind-sided. That's the only reason he came out."
Altavilla, who also ran eight times for 21 yards, was replaced by junior utilityman Luke Smorey, who completed two of 10 passes for 47 yards. Smorey was sacked once, and Baldwin's receivers didn't help much by dropping three of his passes. Junior wide receiver William Howley dropped two of them.
Conversely, Peters' junior quarterback R.J. Pfeuffer was 6-for-6 passing for 62 yards while splitting time under center with sophomore Cory Owen, who was 0-for-3 with an interception. Pfeuffer was sacked once.
Owen rushed four times for 37 yards, and while Pfeuffer was credited with negative-17 yards on three carries, he did have an important one-yard TD run early in the second quarter to give the Indians some breathing room at 13-6.
The game essentially slipped out of Baldwin's hands after the ball slipped out of Brown's on first-and-goal—his second fumble of the half—and any chance that the Highlanders had of winning was lost when the next three scores all came by way of long Minjock runs—56, 15 and 39 yards, respectively, each in the third quarter.
After Brown's six-yard TD, Peters' junior running back Marcus Ubinger and Sala closed the scoring with a 39-yard run and PAT. Ubinger finished with 64 yards on five carries.
Baldwin's junior running back Stephon Harris rushed five times for 32 yards. He also caught two passes for 27 yards.
Peters' senior wide receiver Eric Lewis led all players with 42 yards on two catches.
The Indians' senior linebacker Matt Loether was all over the field, pacing all players with 10 tackles, including eight solo stops, 3.5 tackles for a loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Junior defensive back Jay Morrison led Baldwin with nine tackles (eight solo). Senior defensive back/wide receiver D'Andre Andrews intercepted a pass in the first quarter, made a tackle in the second and hauled in a 36-yard pass from Smorey in the fourth.
Peters will play at Penn Hills High School (1-0, 1-0) on Friday, Sept. 7, in another Southeastern Conference game at 7:30 p.m. Baldwin heads home for a Southeastern game against Plum High School (0-1, 0-1) at the same time.
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