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Penn-Trafford offense trying to find ways to score

| Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The biggest issue facing the Penn-Trafford offense through four games is as clear as numbers on a scoreboard.

After last week's 34-14 loss to McKeesport, the Warriors are averaging 16 points per game. The team's biggest scoring output came in Week 3, a 19-7 victory over Altoona.

“It's a problem,” coach John Ruane said. “We have statistics and 100 yards here and there, etc., but the bottom line is points are all that matter. We have to do a better job at putting the ball in the end zone.”

Penn-Trafford (2-2, 2-1) is moving the ball early this season. Top running back Devin Austin rushed for 590 yards in the first four games, while Tom Stinelli added 226 of his own. Quarterback Brett Laffoon passed for 462 yards and rushed for another 75.

Ruane said the team's offense is struggling mostly when it gets inside its opponent's 30-yard line.

Against McKeesport, penalties and turnovers especially cost the Warriors. Two turnovers ended possessions inside McKeesport territory, while the Tigers (4-0, 3-0) turned another one into a score.

Penn-Trafford also committed an unusually high number of penalties against McKeesport, one of which led indirectly to another touchdown.

“We've turned the ball over too much this year,” Ruane said. “It's really cost us some games. I'm not saying it's a ton, but one's enough. We might be averaging two a game, which is terrible. Penalties, I don't think (are an ongoing trend). Friday was a little bit more than normal, but you've got to eliminate them. You have to be a disciplined football team.”

While the Warriors only found the end zone twice against McKeesport, the offense did show positive signs. Sophomore wide receiver Timmy Vecchio caught seven passes for 122 yards and scored a touchdown for the third straight week.

“When (Laffoon) stepped up in the pocket and delivered, he did a nice job,” Ruane said. “We'll take what they give us, and it seemed like they were giving us some stuff on the perimeter. (Laffoon and Vecchio) are doing a nice job, especially as sophomores.”

Ruane said he thought the defense played well overall against McKeesport, except for a couple of blown assignments that led to big plays.

“(The) bottom line is we didn't win,” Ruane said. “I don't think anyone's satisfied with that, regardless of statistics or anything like that. The whole team, collectively, and staff, always want to win football games. Certainly there were positives, but the loss outweighs all of that.”

Penn-Trafford will look to get back on track this week when it hosts Latrobe (1-3, 0-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

The Wildcats are led by quarterback Logan Carns, who rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown in a 21-13 loss to Norwin last week.

“I think they're dangerous,” Ruane said. “Their whole show starts with their quarterback, who might be the best athlete as quarterbacks go in the conference. He does a ton for them, and he's really good at it. They have some deception on offense — not triple option like McKeesport, but again difficult to defend.

“Defensively, they're very aggressive. They attack. We'd better have our eyes open picking up blitzes because if you don't, they'll make a living in the backfield. We've seen that on film.”

Ruane said he believes his own team is a strong one and will be motivated to bounce back after last week's loss.

“I don't see a quit in anyone's eyes or anything,” he said. “We just have to put it together, and I think once we do, things will go smooth for us. But we really have to put it together now.”

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

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