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Penn-Trafford dissatisfied after season-opening loss

Lillian Dedomenic | For The Penn-Trafford Star
Penn-Trafford running back Devin Austin looks for a hole during the team's game against North Hills on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, at Warrior Stadium.

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Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, 8:36 p.m.

The Penn-Trafford football team believes it's advanced to the point where simply competing with the top teams in Class AAAA is no longer good enough. Instead, the Warriors believe they should win such games.

Because of that, the team is taking no solace from its performance in a season-opening 21-14 loss to Tribune-Review Class AAAA No. 9 North Hills last Friday at Warrior Stadium.

“We're not big on moral victories or anything at this point,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “We want to get over that hump. Friday, I thought, was a winnable game for us, and we didn't do it. So I'm disappointed. And that falls on me. I need to do a better job of getting guys prepared (and with) execution in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line, and actually throughout the game.

“There was a number of opportunities for us to seize momentum, and we didn't do it.”

Penn-Trafford will look to bounce back from the disappointing loss when it hosts rival Norwin (0-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Warrior Stadium. The Knights lost, 21-0, to Altoona last week.

But in order for his own team to beat Norwin this week, Ruane knows improvements will need to be made in several areas.

“We did some really good things on both sides of the ball (against North Hills), but there's obviously a ton we need to improve on and we're going to work hard at that,” Ruane said. “We saw the mistakes on film, and we're going to correct them and go from there.”

Ruane said finishing drives tops the list of necessary improvements before Friday night's game against Norwin. The Warriors only punted once in the game against North Hills, but they managed only 14 points as they missed a field goal and twice turned the ball over on downs.

“Obviously, we didn't execute towards the end of drives the way we needed to,” Ruane said. “Part of that's my fault. ... (But in the) meantime, we still have to execute and we still need to stop them.”

The running game was a bright spot against North Hills, as both Devin Austin and Tom Stinelli rushed for touchdowns and averaged more than 7 yards per carry. Ruane said he was also pleased with sophomore quarterback Brett Laffoon's performance in his first varsity start and said the offensive line blocked well in the running game.

Defensively, Penn-Trafford limited North Hills to 21 points. However, a broken coverage led to a 54-yard touchdown pass for the Indians that tied the game at 7 in the second quarter.

North Hills running back Eddie McDonough scored on a 29-yard run in the third quarter. After Austin's 50-yard touchdown run tied the game at 14, North Hills quarterback Jake Bruder put the Indians up for good in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run.

“We're not satisfied with (the defensive performance), to be honest,” Ruane said. “I think we can do better than that. We gave up a lot of third-and-longs that we shouldn't have, probably. That falls on everybody, including the coaching staff and myself.

“Ultimately, we just need to perform a little bit better in the tackling department. I think we played well overall defensively; guys made good reads, and we pass covered well. We had a (busted coverage) at the end of the first half, which hurt, but otherwise it was pretty decent.”

Ruane said special teams also needs to improve. The team's kicker from last season, Matt Loughnane, graduated, and punter Mark Merlino is out for the season with a torn knee ligament. Ruane used Justin Eibel at punter and both Eibel and Jake Proskin at kicker on Friday, but the Warriors were hampered by a missed field goal and a partially blocked punt.

“(Special teams) was another thorn in our sides Friday,” Ruane said. “We had a lot of newcomers on special teams, and (it was a) tough first night under the lights.”

Because Week 1 ended in disappointing fashion, Ruane said he thought the team would come out motivated for Week 2.

It also won't hurt that Penn-Trafford is playing its biggest rival.

“(The players) know who we're playing,” Ruane said. “It's our conference opener, and we get another crack at a home game (and look to) put on a better performance. Without question, kids always get up for the Norwin game.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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