Norwin, Penn-Trafford football teams get early meeting
Norwin and Penn-Trafford will play each other in the second week of football season Sept. 6, but the rivals got an early preview of that matchup last week.
The Knights and Warriors played each other in the championship round of the Westmoreland County Coaches Association's third annual 7-on-7 tournament, held Thursday at Franklin Regional High School. While Penn-Trafford came away with a 21-12 victory, both coaches came away pleased with their teams' overall performance in the tournament, which was held in temperatures exceeding 90 degrees.
“I think the kids competed well today,” Norwin coach Art Tragesser said. “I thought they competed well under the circumstances with the heat, and they made some big plays at different times. We caught the ball well. It's just (that) we lost to a better team. But we're working. We're working to be in that upper echelon.”
“I'm happy we competed,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “It's hot, and it's a long day. Everyone out here did a real nice job. … It's nice to do some stuff like this in the summer to get your team together.”
The 7-on-7 tournament featured 12 teams from throughout Westmoreland County, including Franklin Regional, Greensburg Central Catholic, Greensburg Salem, Hempfield, Jeannette, Kiski Area, Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland, Valley and Yough.
Teams were broken up into pools of six and competed in a round-robin tournament featuring 25-minute games. Pool winners advanced to the championship game.
Norwin moved to the championship after going 4-1 in a pool that included Franklin Regional, Hempfield, Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland and Yough, with the only loss coming against Franklin Regional. Hempfield also finished 4-1, but Norwin advanced to the title game by virtue of its head-to-head win over the Spartans.
The Knights, who finished 2-7 last season, are working to get back to the playoffs in 2013 after a two-year absence.
“We're pleased — not satisfied, but we're pleased,” Tragesser said. “We saw a lot of good things today, but we have a lot of things we need to work on.”
Penn-Trafford, meanwhile, went 4-0-1 in its pool, which included Greensburg Central Catholic, Greensburg Salem, Jeannette, Kiski Area and Valley. The Warriors' only blemish was a tie against Kiski.
The Warriors are breaking in a new quarterback in rising sophomore Brett Laffoon, and Ruane said he saw positive things from his quarterback and receivers.
“I think you see who wants to be a competitor, who we like to go to that can make plays,” Ruane said. “That all changes when linemen are running at our quarterback, and guys are getting tackled and they've got to get back up and do it again. But I think it's really good for our offense to get timing down, especially when you have a young quarterback. That's the biggest thing about this.”
The 7-on-7 format features just one lineman — a center — and rules prohibit blocking and tackling. Because of that, Ruane said, teams don't learn much about each other from playing in tournaments like last week's.
“When it comes down to it, we're all going to run the ball, and that's how we're going to win or lose,” Ruane said. “But I'm impressed with Norwin, I'm impressed with Hempfield, I'm impressed with Kiski Area. We've got a very tough conference this year. Certainly you saw a lot of that on display (Thursday).”
While the real contest between Norwin and Penn-Trafford won't come for more than a month, Tragesser said he was glad to have an early test against the Warriors last week.
“It puts a little bit of pressure on the kids and (adds) a little enthusiasm,” Tragesser said. “And they're a good team. That's a great challenge for us. We're working our tails off to try to get back to a respectable program, a respectable team. It was a nice step for us today. We're not satisfied, but we're not discouraged, either.”