Penn-Trafford heads into homecoming at 5-1
According to the schedule and the standings, the upcoming game against Kiski Area could be the proverbial “trap game” for Penn-Trafford.
But one thing makes a let-down for the Warriors seem quite unlikely — homecoming night.
Penn-Trafford enters its homecoming game against Kiski Area — at 7:30 p.m. Friday — riding a five-game winning streak and holding a share of the Quad East Conference lead with three games remaining.
Even though a highly-anticipated matchup with co-leader and Class AAAA No. 3-ranked Gateway looms one week away, Warriors head coach John Ruane said he is confident his team will remain focused on the task at hand.
“We're not thinking about Gateway in the least bit,” Ruane said. “Kiski is too good for us to be able to do that.
“(Kiski Area) may be the most improved team in the WPIAL this year.
“They're extremely well-disciplined, they take away other teams' best plays, and they line up in some things that can really cause you trouble.
“But our kids are playing at home, and it's homecoming, so they're going to want to put on their best performance.”
The Warriors (5-1, 5-0) are the ninth-ranked team in Quad-A and the only ranked team other than Gateway in the Quad East.
In Kiski Area (3-3, 3-2), Penn-Trafford will be facing a team currently tied for third in the conference and coming off a big win last week over Norwin, 36-14.
As with so many of the teams in the Quad East this season, the Cavaliers' offense centers around a mobile quarterback in Ricky Carter.
Whether throwing to top target Joe Brungo or making plays with his legs, Carter is the first person the Warriors must aim to stop.
“(Carter) does a lot of good things, and they're a difficult team to prepare for,” Ruane said. “We have to get in the backfield and create havoc for them.
The Warriors did a good job on the road last Friday against another quarterback with a similar skill set — Connellsville's Jade Maher — as the Warriors won their 11th straight conference game, 38-17,
Penn-Trafford rolled up 380 rushing yards in the game, led by Devin Austin's 174 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries. Tom Stinelli and Matt Arzenti also added rushing touchdowns in the game.
The Warriors' physical dominance carried over to the defensive side of the ball, as P-T pitched a first-half shutout. Brian McDonough caught a 6-yard touchdown from Dorian Stevens and Matt Loughnane hit a 37-yard field goal before Austin's first scoring run, which made the halftime score 17-0.
The first Connellsville (2-4, 2-3) touchdown came on a 1-yard run by Jordan McCrae, but P-T answered with scores on its next two drives to put the game away.
“Tom Stinelli and Devin Austin were tremendous. They were tough to tackle all game,” Ruane said.
“Again, our O-line was good coming off the ball, and they really imposed themselves physically. Our perimeter blocking was good too, and that allowed us to spring a couple of big ones.”
The Warriors' physical edge was seen from the other sideline, as well.
“They physically kicked our butt again,” Connellsville coach Dave McDonald said after the game. “We're not physically strong enough to compete with a caliber of a team like that.”
For Penn-Trafford's offense to reach its fullest potential this season, it will need to maintain and expand the ability to produce long plays and touchdowns that it showed against Connellsville.
Austin's first touchdown run covered 74 yards, and Arzenti's covered 72 yards on the ground.
Both were the result of Penn-Trafford not just winning at the point of attack, but also making its blocks on the edges and upfield to finish the play.
“(Halfback) Brian McDonough and (tight end) Vince Hetherington were both strong on the edges, but our wide receivers — Ryan Marasti, Dom Cima, Ben Spadaro and others — are really underrated blockers. It's something we work hard on in practice,” Ruane said.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.