Gateway vying to remain undefeated in matchup with Penn-Trafford
Gateway head football coach Donnie Militzer has seen his players deal with all manner of challenges to their undefeated record this season.
It happened right off the bat with Latrobe in a two-point win in week one. It continued with down-to-the wire victories over Hempfield in week five and North Allegheny two weeks ago.
Last week, Norwin put up a fight before the Gators pulled out a 13-6 win at Norwin Stadium.
“We just want to win football games, whether it's 13-6 or 30-6,” Militzer said
“The kids found a way to win, and we're 7-0. Norwin came out and played a really good game. They put pressure on us and played well defensively.
“Right after the game and into the first part of the week, there was still some disappointment among the kids over the way they played against Norwin. Then, they looked at the silver lining and realized that the goals of winning the conference, getting a nice playoff seed and hosting a first-round game are still right in front of them.”
Gateway and McKeesport both sit atop the Quad East standings at 6-0, and the Gators and Tigers meet in their conference finale on Oct. 24.
Penn-Trafford, in a three-team log jam at 4-2, is hoping to scar the Gators' undefeated mark and bounce back from last week's 34-14 loss to Kiski Area.
“You knew going into this season there were some pretty good football teams in the conference,” Militzer said.
“Kiski is a good team. Penn-Trafford will probably come in with more of a sense of urgency to improve their position in the conference and for playoff seeding.”
Penn-Trafford has given up only 17.4 points per game this season, but it was the second time it surrendered 34 points in a game. The Warriors suffered a 34-14 loss to McKeesport on Sept. 20.
“They have some good size and are very aggressive on defense,” Militzer said.
“They run so many different offensive sets and formations. If you aren't disciplined on defense, they can really hurt you. We are going to have to work really hard again if we are to come away with a win.”
Friday's game also is for the Victory Bell, which has been up for grabs since the teams resumed their conference matchups in 2008.
It originally was the prize for the former Pitcairn-Trafford football rivalry from 1924 to 1957.
Gateway won the current Victory Bell game four out of the first five years, including last year's 42-0 triumph at Penn-Trafford.
The Warriors took the bell in 2011 with a 16-14 win in the regular season, but the Gators avenged the loss, 34-9, in the playoffs.
“The kids do put a lot of stock in the bell and the history and tradition between Gateway and Penn-Trafford,” Militzer said. “It adds to the fun of the rivalry.”
Senior Devin Austin, Penn-Trafford's rushing leader last season, has 749 yards rushing and four touchdowns in 2013.
Quarterback Brett Laffoon (723 yards, seven touchdowns) and wideout Timmy Vecchio (24 catches, 396 yards) also are top offensive threats.
Senior Delvon Randall was an offensive threat for the Gators last week.
He caught three passes for 56 yards and ran the wildcat formation to the tune of eight carries for 71 yards and 6 of 11 passing for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
“Delvon's just a playmaker. When he has the ball in his hands, something special can happen,” Militzer said.
Randall connected with senior Montae Nicholson on both Gateway TDs (57 and 1 yards), and Nicholson caught five passes overall for 136 yards.
Militzer said that despite the success Randall had in the wildcat, quarterback Jimmy Moore, who threw for 81 yards last week, will get the start against Penn-Trafford.
“It wasn't a permanent thing,” Militzer said. “We utilized some wildcat the past couple of weeks. Jimmy was under some pressure, and he took some shots. When we were in the wildcat, Norwin was so geared up to stop the run, it opened up some deep balls. We might still use the wildcat.”
The Gateway defense held Norwin out of the end zone on a goal-line stand, and the six points given up against the Knights was a season low for the Gators.
Senior middle linebacker and running back Zaihe Regus has a team-best 103 tackles on the season, and he rushed for 75 yards on eight carries against Norwin.
Militzer said the players in the trenches along the offensive and defensive lines continue to excel and generate big plays.
Freshman Robert Hainsey (left tackle), senior Stephen Gross (right tackle), sophomore Adam Clark (guard), junior Dom Scassera (guard) and senior Joe Robak (center) — with key reserves in juniors Dylan Smith (tackle) and Hunter Dale (guard) — have helped the offense do different things in the running and passing games.
“They play better and better each week,” Militzer said. “There are three first-year starters up front. We're not 7-0 and gaining yardage without them doing a great job.”
Gross, Robak and senior Brenon Thrift continue to anchor the defensive line with Dale and junior Alex McCallum as top subs.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.