When the top-ranked team in WPIAL Class 5A takes the field, opponents typically feel the considerable impact made by senior Carter Shanafelt … over and over and over again.
“It’s a huge impact because it’s been across all three phases of the football game,” Peters Township coach T.J. Plack said.
Shanafelt is a wide receiver-safety-kicker-punter whose all-around productivity has been one of the driving forces for a Peters Township team that is 7-0 and seeking its first WPIAL title.
Peters Township has produced 272 points this season, the most in Class 5A. Shanafelt (5 feet 11, 180 pounds) has been responsible for 89 of those, as he has scored eight touchdowns, converted 32 extra points and booted three field goals. The 89 points are 11 more than any other Class 5A player and ranks fifth overall in the entire WPIAL.
In an effort his coach called “tremendous,” Shanafelt put together one of the best all-around performances by a WPIAL player this season in last week’s 40-7 win against a Moon team that came into the game red hot. Shanafelt was on the receiving end of three touchdowns (4, 67 and 73 yards), returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown and kicked a pair of extra points. He finished with five catches for 172 yards.
Shanafelt’s receiving numbers this season are impressive. He has 17 receptions for 356 yards (20.9 yards a catch) and has scored six touchdowns. He’s a three-year starter at wide receiver.
“He’s dynamic when he gets the ball in his hands. Our job as coaches is to make sure we get him a couple of touches each game,” Plack said of Shanafelt, who also sees time at safety, where he registered the pick-6 and a TFL.
But the part of Shanafelt’s game that Plack said often goes unnoticed is his impact on the kicking game, a surprise considering Shanafelt wasn’t expected to win the kicking and punting jobs. Shanafelt has a soccer background and often practiced kicking at practices in the past, said Plack, adding that Shanafelt wasn’t very consistent. So, when the Indians needed a new kicker and punter this season, Plack initially turned elsewhere.
“This year we had a couple of soccer kids come out for the team, with the thought that the other kids would beat out [Shanafelt],” Plack said. “But he was so consistent with his punting and kicking and so powerful with his leg. He’s a weapon back there, and he can also pull the ball down and run with it.”
Shanafelt ran with the kicking duties and for the season is 17 of 18 on extra-point attempts and 2 for 4 on field-goal attempts. He’s also averaging 31.6 yards on 18 punts, with seven of those landing inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Canon-McMillan has leaned on an outstanding defense to amass a 5-2 record and ascend to the No. 3 ranking in Class 6A. One of the keys for the Big Macs has been their ability to produce a lot of big sacks.
There aren’t many WPIAL teams that have rushed the quarterback as well as Canon-McMillan, which has collected 25 sacks through seven games. Three players have accounted for 21 of those takedowns. Senior linebacker Kaeden Singleton, a Delaware recruit, has a team-high eight sacks, senior linebacker Geno Calgaro has 7.5 and junior defensive lineman Daisean Lacks has chipped in 5.5. Lacks is a newcomer who played at Bishop Canevin last season.
On the season, Canon-McMillan is giving up 15.4 points per game. Take away the losses to No. 1 Central Catholic (49 points) and No. 2 North Allegheny (30 points), and the Big Macs have allowed 29 points in their other five games. They pitched shutouts against both Penn-Trafford and Seneca Valley.
One of the most productive tacklers in the entire state plays for Southmoreland. Ethan Shawley is a junior linebacker who has racked up 99 tackles in just seven games this season. According to MaxPreps, that tackle total ranks third in the state. Keep in mind that not all teams post their stats on that website, so there may be more players ahead of Shawley.
Regardless, 99 is a very high number at this point of the season. Shawley has five double-digit tackle games, the biggest being his 24-tackle outburst in a 24-21 win against Derry on Sept. 8. Shawley totaled 18 tackles against McGuffey, 15 against South Allegheny and 14 apiece against Deer Lakes and Elizabeth Forward. He has also produced six sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for Southmoreland, which takes a 4-3 record into Friday’s game at Greensburg Salem.
If you’re wondering — or even if you’re not — Sam Shipley of Moshannon Valley (District 6) leads the state with 122 tackles, while Michael McClenton of Ocoee, Florida., leads the country with 142 tackles and ranks second with 22 sacks.
One of the wildest games of the season took place last Friday at Ellwood City, where the host Wolverines outlasted New Brighton, 62-40. The 102 combined points were the second-most in a WPIAL game this season, with the Central Catholic-Bethel Park game on Sept. 8 (Central Catholic won, 62-46) being the only contest that has generated more.
As you would expect, the game produced some ridiculous stat lines. The biggest one might be that the teams combined for exactly 1,100 yards of offense. Ellwood City totaled 653 and New Brighton 447. Ellwood City averaged a staggering 11.5 yards per play on the night. The game featured a 286-yard rusher (Ellwood City’s Elijah Palmer-McCane), a 244-yard receiver (New Brighton’s Mike Veon) and a pair of 275-yard passers (New Brighton’s Brian Taylor passed for 297 yards and Ellwood City’s Chris Smiley threw for 275).
Ellwood City’s 62 points were actually only the eighth most in program history. Who can forget the game in 1927 when the Wolverines scored 127 points against Evans City? That’s one record that might never be topped.