Penn-Trafford, Gateway to play for Quad East title
In the Quad East Conference, it's come to this.
No. 2 Gateway will be matched against No. 10 Penn-Trafford on Friday night in Harrison City, with the winner clinching the conference crown.
Penn-Trafford narrowly defeated Gateway, 16-14, at P-T's Warrior Stadium during the 2011 regular season. Gateway avenged the loss by trouncing P-T, 34-9, in a WPIAL quarterfinal playoff game at Hempfield.
Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane is on the faculty at Gateway. This is his Warriors' fourth confrontation with the Gators since he was named coach at P-T in 2010.
“They know me. I know them. It's kind of a non-factor now,” Ruane said.
Both teams acknowledge that their preparation time has intensified this week.
That chatter started just as soon as they had wrapped up victories last Friday night to remain unbeaten (6-0) in the conference.
“We love this. Any true competitor loves this,” Gateway coach Terry Smith said. “All my life I've dreamed of being in situations like this. These are the moments that bring out the best in you. It's a chance for the kids to raise the level of competition and succeed. Games like this are not normal high school games.”
Gateway, led by Arizona-bound quarterback Thomas Woodson, is coming off a 62-14 rout of Norwin despite the absence of leading rusher Andre Martin, who was sidelined with an ankle injury.
Smith said seniors Martin and running back Darin Franklin, who also didn't play last week, would return for the Penn-Trafford game.
It all adds to the potency of an already-powerful Gateway attack.
“We have to play our best game of the year to be in it,” Ruane said. “We're happy to be where we are. It's a big-time deal for us to go to a conference championship game. It's a big deal for the school.”
Penn-Trafford has been riding the steady play of quarterback Dorian Stevens, who benefitted from a big effort by sophomore Devin Austin in a 27-0 shutout of Kiski Area last Friday.
He returned the opening kickoff 80 yards to the Kiski Area 5, setting up the Warriors' first touchdown, then caught a 91-yard scoring pass from Stevens on the next possession.
It came a week after Austin rushed for 174 yards and scored twice in a victory over Connellsville.
“He's been a big-play guy the last four or five weeks,” Ruane said. “Returning kicks, running the football, he's a good target out of the backfield. He has a little confidence and you trust him, where you might not expect that much from a sophomore.”
Stevens, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior, is a familiar face to Smith going back to the days of youth football in the Gateway School District.
“We know all about Dorian Stevens,” Smith said. “He played in the Gateway midgets. We thought he'd stay here, but he went to Penn-Trafford. They have some playmakers over there. They know how to win games.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5617.