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Baldwin football team aiming for winning debut

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Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Pete Wagner era of Baldwin football officially commences Friday at Baldwin Stadium, as the Fighting Highlanders host Peters Township at 7:30 p.m. in their Quad Central Conference opener.

Wagner, in his first year as the Fighting Highlanders' field boss, is looking for a winning debut.

Baldwin finished with a 3-6 overall record last season, and lost to Peters Township by a 40-12 margin in its season opener.

Peters Township has established itelf in recent years as a regular WPIAL Class AAAA playoff participant.

“Peters Township is an experienced, well-coached team,” Wagner said. “They have been to the playoffs the past three seasons and are looking to continue that trend.

“(They) have a handful of starters back on both sides of the ball, so it is vital we have a strong week of preparation.”

The Indians have an abundance of returning starters — seven on offense and seven on defense — on the team this year.

“The goal is to always get in the playoffs, and advance in the playoffs,” Rich Piccinini, the Peters Township's head coach, said.

The visitors are led by quarterback Cory Owen, a 6-foot-2 junior who passed for 715 yards last season and is drawing college interest.

Others back this year for the Indians include seniors Conner Kachowski, in the secondary; offensive/defensive linemen Dane Sehnert and Chris Corrado; Lukas Cervenak, at center; tight end Max Augenstein; wide receiver Mike Erenberg; linebackers Cody Sheetz and Kenny Ward; and, on the defensive line, seniors Greg Watts and Connor Pope.

There are 23 seniors on the Peters Township varsity roster.

Both squads are replacing graduated star running backs in their offensive backfield this year.

Baldwin's Dorian Brown rushed for 1,059 yards last season; Peters Township's Mike Minjock finished with 1,323 yards in the rushing department.

The Fighting Highlanders have four returning starters on offense — Doug Altavilla, a junior quarterback and third-year starter; Luke Smorey, a senior wide receiver; Sterling Jenkins, a junior tackle; and Enzo Ruscitto, a senior guard.

The 6-8, 300-pound Jenkins was a Tribune-Review high school preseason all-star selection on the offensive line.

Nick Barca, a 5-9, 180-pound senior, has inherited the job as the team's featured running back.

Baldwin has several starters back on defense including Smorey, at cornerback, and Barca, at safety.

Senior linebackers Jake Elk, Justin Zinsmeister and Bill Howley, as well as junior linebacker Donnie West, also are returning starters.

Baldwin tangled with Central Valley in its second preseason scrimmage last week in preparation for its 2013 season lidlifter.

“The scrimmage went well,” Wagner said. “Central Valley is a great program, and it is always helpful to get some solid work before week one.”

The Fighting Highlanders are 2-2 versus Peters Township over the past four seasons. Baldwin defeated the Indians by 20-17 and 12-9 scores in 2009 and 2010.

Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or

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