Logan Pfeuffer definitely took notice.

Who could blame a quarterback in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference when the first five weeks of your schedule featured the winners of every conference championship since 2017 in Westminster, Case Western Reserve, Carnegie Mellon and Washington & Jefferson?

“We sat down in the spring and checked the schedule, and I was like, ‘Oh, we’ve got all the top four teams in the first five weeks,’” recalled Pfeuffer, a 2021 Peters Township graduate, now a junior in his second season as Grove City’s starting signal-caller. “From that first day of camp it was, ‘We’re going to prepare one week at a time.’”

After the first five weeks of their 2023 campaign, it appears the Wolverines have prepared quite well.

Week after week, Grove City opened its season with victories, rolling to its first 5-0 start since 1926 and the first NCAA Division III national ranking in school history to emerge as the favorite to win its third PAC championship and first since 1997.

“We knew it was going to be a tough stretch playing a number of teams who have been picked toward the top of the conference, and have been toward the top of the conference the last couple of years,” said Bridgeville native and South Fayette graduate Andrew DiDonato, now in his eighth season as Grove City’s head coach. “We’ve said from the beginning of camp, ‘Truly good to great each rep, 1-0 each week.’

“We tried not to get ahead of ourselves and get overwhelmed with knowing the big games we had in this beginning stretch.”

No. 25 Grove City continued its hot start with a 48-21 victory over Geneva Saturday afternoon at Reeves Field in Beaver Falls.

Pfeuffer completed 12-of-24 passes for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns. Senior receiver Scott Fraser, a Knoch graduate, caught a game-high 6 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown for the Wolverines (6-0) against the Golden Tornadoes (1-4).

Running back Clayton Parrish, a fifth-year senior, rushed for a game-high 139 yards and 2 touchdowns on 21 carries for Grove City, while 2021 West Allegheny graduate Nico Flati added 35 yards on 17 carries.

“The big strength is we get the run game going early,” Pfeuffer said. “The more we run the ball early, the better we run the ball early. It really opens up the passing lanes for me to capitalize on the one-on-one matchups.”

Peters Township graduate Logan Pfeuffer is in his second season as Grove City’s starting quarterback.(Courtesy of Grove City College athletics)

Grove City is the third-best running team in the PAC with an average of 164 yards per game.

Flati is the conference’s top rusher with 521 yards and 3 touchdowns on 142 carries.

“Our guys have been doing a great job of getting a great push, opening up holes for me and Clayton,” Flati said. “They’re making it easy for us. I think our line is doing a pretty good job the first half of the season.”

Now a junior, Flati said he has developed his vision as a runner and being able to read blocking during his three seasons of Division III football. He takes great pride in his ability to break tackles.

“Not letting one person bring me down, that’s a big mentality with me,” Flati said. “It’s just not wanting to be down, wanting to score whenever you have the ball in your hands each time.”

Another aspect of the Wolverines’ makeup Flati takes pride in is his team’s Western Pennsylvania flavor.

Grove City features 36 former WPIAL players on its roster, many leading the team in offensive and defensive categories.

“That’s huge,” Flati said. “We’re big WPIAL kids. I love that [associate head coach Derrick Baney] brought us all here together. It’s something special that we have here. I love being able to play with certain people that I played against in high school.”

In addition to Pfeuffer and Flati’s contributions to the offense, Fraser has a team-high 39 catches, 550 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns.

“We take a little bit of pride,” Pfeuffer said. “There’s some eastern Pa. guys on the team we all razz about ‘the WPIAL is better,’ but in general we are all here for the same vision — to compete for a PAC championship.”

The WPIAL influence also extends to the defensive side of the football.

Sophomore linebacker Jack Jollie, a Penn-Trafford graduate, has recorded a team-high 42 tackles, while graduate-student linebacker Ryan Fleming, a South Fayette product, has 39 tackles.

Sophomore linebacker Ben Bladel, a Moon graduate, holds the team lead in sacks with 5, and Montour product Dominic Magliocco, a senior safety, has 23 tackles with 1 sack and is tied for a team-high 2 interceptions with senior cornerback Gabe Dunlap, a Penn-Trafford product.

“We’re a complete football team,” said DiDonato, a 2009 Grove City graduate and former quarterback, who holds Wolverines records for career passing yards, completions and touchdown passes.

For Grove City to hand Case Western, Carnegie Mellon and W&J their only losses of the season in successive weeks is proof of that fact, DiDonato said.

“Those teams have that reputation because they are complete football teams in all three phases,” he said. “As we work to build this program we said, ‘We truly have to play great football on offense, defense and special teams.’ If I had to attribute the start to this season to anything I would just say, we are a complete football team in all three phases and that’s how you have to be to win some of the games we’ve won here.”

Carnegie Mellon scores second most points in program history in rout of Thiel

It was a historic performance for Carnegie Mellon Saturday night, as the Tartans defeated Thiel, 80-22, in the 11th annual Cindy Lackner Memorial game at Gesling Stadium in Oakland.

The 80 points scored by the Tartans (5-1) against the Tomcats (2-4) were the most scored in a single game since Carnegie Mellon racked up 88 points in a 1918 victory over Waynesburg.

The 16 tackles for a loss the Tartans recorded were second most in a single game in program history, but Carnegie Mellon’s three blocked punts set a single-game mark and were one off of a Division III record.

Quarterback Ben Mills threw for 152 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception for the Tartans. He also rushed for 20 yards and a score.

Dominic Voiland, Peters Township graduate Brendan McCullough, Brian Stacy and Danny Moynihan all caught touchdown passes for Carnegie Mellon.

Tartans running backs Tre Vasiliadis and Willem Bouma also rushed for scores.

Senior Logan Young, a Moon graduate, recorded a team-high 8 tackles for Carnegie Mellon. Junior linebacker Evan Roper finished with 6 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 1/2 tackles for a loss and forced a fumble.

Senior defensive back Adrian Williams, a Peters Township graduate, had 6 tackles and returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown.

Quarterback Scott Oliver, who passed for 211 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, led Thiel on offense.

Homewood native Andrew Plowden the Tomcats senior running back, carried the ball 10 times for 51 yards and added 2 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. Jorden Collier carried the football 12 times for a game-high 68 yards and a touchdown for Thiel.

Chase Lawler also caught 11 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown for the Tomcats.

Washington & Jefferson coach Mike Sirianni celebrates with his players after the Presidents defeated Allegheny, 35-28, Saturday at Cameron Stadium in Washington. (Courtesy of Washington & Jefferson athletics)

Washington & Jefferson rebounds from first loss with win over Allegheny

After falling from the ranks of the PAC’s unbeaten a week ago, Washington & Jefferson rebounded to hold on for a 35-28 victory over Allegheny at Cameron Stadium in Washington.

Junior quarterback Jacob Pugh, a Thomas Jefferson graduate, threw for 185 yards and 4 first-half touchdowns to lead the Presidents (5-1) over the Gators (2-4).

Sophomore receiver Jacob Macosko, a Peters Township product, made 5 catches for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Laurel graduate Kobe Derosa caught 3 passes for 38 yards and 2 scores.

Bethel Park graduate Troy Volpatti rushed for a team-high 122 yards for W&J.

Ligonier Valley graduate Kyrie Miller, a senior running back, rushed for 151 yards and 3 touchdowns for Allegheny, which also got 18 catches for 233 yards and a score from Declan O’Brien, a Norwin graduate.

Senior quarterback Jack Johnson completed 26-of-37 passes for 286 yards a touchdown for the Gators.

Westminster rolls over winless Bethany

Sophomore quarterback Ty McGowan, a Moon graduate, passed for a season-high 213 yards with 4 touchdowns as Westminster rolled to a 42-7 PAC victory over visiting Bethany at Memorial Field inside Harold Burry Stadium in New Wilmington.

Another Moon graduate, receiver Taite Beachy, was McGowan’s favorite target with 4 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Chevy Dawson added two touchdowns for the Titans (3-2) and receiver Jalen Washington had 49 yards and a score against the Bison (0-5).

Running back Ryan Gomes also carried the ball 17 times for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns for Westminster.

California University of Pennsylvania quarterback Davis Black attempts to break the tackle of IUP linebacker Drew DiNunzio-Biss, a Kiski Area graduate, during Saturday’s “Coal Bowl” at George P. Miller Stadium in Indiana. (Courtesy of Cameron Horning/IUP athletic communications)

California wins ‘Coal Bowl’ over IUP

California rolled to its third consecutive victory Saturday with a 30-20 win in the 14th “Coal Bowl,” sending Indiana University of Pennsylvania to its second loss to a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference rival in two weeks.

The Vulcans (4-1) now have outscored their past three opponents, 98-37, while IUP (3-3) lost for the second time this season at George P. Miller Stadium in Indiana after falling to No. 10 Slippery Rock, 42-21, on the road a week earlier.

California outgained IUP, 176-69, on the ground, led by running back Eric McKan III, who rushed 21 times for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Vulcans quarterback Davis Black threw for 261 yards and an interception. Junior tight end Jack Colecchi, a Kiski Area graduate, caught 2 passes for 86 yards.

IUP quarterback Karst Hunter completed 3 passes for 30 yards and 2 touchdowns before leaving the game with an injury. He was spelled by redshirt freshman Nico Marchitelli, who managed just 93 yards and an interception.

Redshirt freshman receiver Cyair Clark, an Aliquippa product, caught a team-high 4 passes for 80 yards for the Crimson Hawks, while Hilton Ridley and Cole Laney also had touchdown grabs.

Slippery Rock quarterback Brayden Long throws a pass Saturday against Mercyhurst at Saxon Stadium in Erie. (Courtesy of Jon Holtz/Slippery Rock athletics)

No. 10 Slippery Rock erupts for 75 points in rout of Mercyhurst

No. 10 Slippery Rock found the end zone 11 times Saturday and combined for 887 yards of total offense with host Mercyhurst as the Rock (6-0) remained undefeated with a 75-31 PSAC victory at Saxon Stadium in Erie.

Slippery Rock quarterback Brayden Long threw for 224 yards and 4 touchdowns against Mercyhurst (1-5). Cohen Russell caught 5 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown, while Kyle Sheets had 6 catches for 54 yards and 2 scores. West Allegheny graduate Kam Kruzelyak and Shenango product Reis Watkins also had touchdown grabs.

Chris D’Or and Isaiah Edwards each had two rushing touchdowns for the Rock, while Khalid Dorsey and Luke McCoy also found paydirt on the ground. 

Jaylen Butera rushed for 204 yards and 3 touchdowns on 27 carries to pace the Mercyhurst offense. Quarterback Adam Urena threw for 197 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.

Seton Hill hangs on to knock off Clarion

Redshirt sophomore running back Ky’Ron Craggette, a Connellsville native, scored a 2-yard touchdown with 3:06 left and Seton Hill hung on to defeat host Clarion, 24-17, for a PSAC victory at Memorial Stadium.

JaiQuawn McGriff rushed for a game-high 89 yards on 19 carries for Seton Hill (2-4).

Quarterback Hayden Teska, a Greensburg Salem graduate, threw for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception for the Griffins. He connected with fellow former Golden Lions player, Cody Rubrecht, for a 10-yard scoring strike.

Mark Bails Jr. caught 5 passes for 127 yards to lead Seton Hill’s offense.

Quarterback Zach Benedek, an Elizabeth Forward product, threw for 90 yards and a touchdown for Clarion (1-5). Running back Corahn Alleyne rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown and had 67 yards and a score through the air for the Golden Eagles.

Robert Morris quarterback Anthony Chiccitt, a Bethel Park graduate, throws a pass Saturday against Gardner-Webb at Ernest W. Spangler Stadium in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. (Courtesy of Robert Morris athletics)

Robert Morris falls at Gardner-Webb

Robert Morris fell behind by 21 points after one quarter and never recovered in a 31-16 loss to Gardner-Webb (2-3) at Ernest W. Spangler Stadium in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

Bethel Park graduate Anthony Chiccitt completed 25-of-42 passes for 168 yards to lead the Colonials (2-3).

Turnovers critical for Duquesne in loss at Delaware

Quarterback Darius Perrantes passed for 128 yards and a touchdown, but also threw three critical interceptions, as Duquesne fell to Delaware, 43-17, at Delaware Stadium.

Running back Edward Robinson rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown for Duquesne (2-3), and Darryl Powell Jr. had 2 catches for 59 yards and a score against Delaware (4-1).

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at jsanta@unionprogress.com.

John Santa

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at jsanta@unionprogress.com.