Penn-Trafford defense prepares for major challenge in McKeesport
A week after its best performance of the season to date, the Penn-Trafford football team's defense will face its biggest test yet.
The Warriors (2-1, 2-0 Quad East) will travel to play McKeesport (3-0, 2-0), the Tribune-Review's fourth-ranked team in Class AAAA, at 7 p.m. Friday at Weigle-Schaeffer Memorial Stadium. Led by coach George Smith, who picked up his 200th career victory last week against Norwin, the Tigers boast one of the top offenses in Class AAAA.
“You'd better play disciplined football on both sides of the ball if you expect to win,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “Turnovers will kill you (because) they'll turn them into points. Then defensively, everyone has an assignment, and they'd better stick to that assignment because once you get tired and forget about it for a split-second, you're going to be chasing someone down the field. We're going to be stressing discipline hard all week long, and then you'd better be physical along with that.”
McKeesport puts pressure on defenses with a flexbone, triple-option attack. Running back Mikell Moore rushed for 141 yards in the Tigers' 28-7 victory over Norwin, but any number of players can produce big plays, Ruane said.
“I don't think the McKeesport staff knows sometimes who has the ball because that's how good (the players) are,” Ruane said. “And everything is based on what we do. The quarterback's going to read us, so that's why we'd better get to our assignment and be disciplined. If you try to do someone else's job, the guy you're supposed to take care of is going to burn you.”
If Ruane can take comfort in something, it's that his own team — and the defense in particular — is coming off what he called its best performance of the season.
While the defense allowed just 24 points in the first two weeks of the season, tackling issues plagued the Warriors. Those issues didn't crop up in last week's game, a 19-7 victory over Altoona that saw the Warriors limit the Mountain Lions to below 200 yards of offense and just five first downs.
“Our defense was outstanding, I thought,” Ruane said. “We stressed that for a couple weeks now, and the guys came out and showed what they're capable of doing. We were extremely physical, and I think that paid off at the end. I think we wore (Altoona) down a little bit. We broke down, we didn't let tackles slip away, we covered very well … so we were very happy with that effort. It looks like those guys are coming together, which is what we need to win.”
Offensively, junior running back Devin Austin had another big game, rushing for 169 yards. Ruane said Tom Stinelli, who finished with 40 yards, would have had more if a long run hadn't been called back because of a penalty.
Sophomore quarterback Brett Laffoon posted his best game of the season to date, throwing for more than 100 yards and finding wide receiver Timmy Vecchio for a touchdown for the second straight week. Laffoon also rushed for a touchdown, as did senior receiver Ryan Marasti.
“(The running game is) our bread and butter,” Ruane said. “That's what we need to do to be successful. We're glad we can throw some balance in with it.”
Whatever happens Friday night, Ruane felt comfortable enough to make one prediction based on the physicality of McKeesport and his own team.
“We're going to wake up Saturday morning sore,” he said. “I know that.”