Penn-Trafford topples Penn Hills on late touchdown
Penn-Trafford is making a habit out of last-minute comebacks.
Two weeks after a touchdown and 2-point conversion in the waning seconds gave the Warriors a victory over Gateway, they pulled off the feat again. Brett Laffoon's 23-yard touchdown pass to Timmy Vecchio with 27 seconds remaining gave Penn-Trafford a 22-16, come-from-behind victory over Penn Hills in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs Friday night at Warrior Stadium.
“(With) a minute-and-a-half, we just don't feel like the game's over,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “We've done it a couple times now, and we feel good about what we can do in that situation.”
Penn Hills' Shawn Featherstone gave the Indians (5-5) a 16-14 lead with 1:38 remaining, but Vecchio returned the ensuing kickoff to the 46-yard line to give Penn-Trafford (7-3) good field position.
It took the Warriors four plays to get to the Penn Hills 23-yard line. From there, Laffoon found Vecchio on a crossing pattern, and Vecchio avoided the tackle of Penn Hills' Malik Russell and got down the right sideline for the touchdown. A 2-point conversion gave Penn-Trafford a 22-16 lead, and the Warriors stopped Penn Hills' last-ditch comeback attempt.
“I caught the pass, I turned the corner and I saw an opening,” Vecchio said. “I just made a move, and I got in there.
“It was the best feeling ever. It was an amazing one.”
Penn-Trafford's late-game comeback overshadowed a dominant second half for Penn Hills' offense. The Indians ran 40 plays in the second half, compared to 14 for Penn-Trafford, and controlled the time of possession.
However, Penn-Trafford held the Indians to a field goal after a seven-minute drive in the third quarter and forced a fumble inside the red zone to keep a slim 14-10 lead until Featherstone's late touchdown.
“We moved the ball all night long, and we killed ourselves,” Penn Hills coach John Peterman said. “But I give (credit) to them. We were up 16-14, and they made some plays.”
The first half was a battle of mistakes; the teams combined for three lost fumbles, an interception and three turnovers on downs.
Penn Hills took a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game when Penn-Trafford's Devin Austin fumbled a snap in the wildcat formation, allowing Russell to scoop the ball up and score from 26 yards.
The Warriors evened the score on a similar play in the second quarter. A snap went over Penn Hills punter Isaiah Jones' head, forcing him to pick it up deep in his own territory. He fumbled on a hit by Austin, and Vecchio recovered the ball and returned it 2 yards for a touchdown.
“I kind of said that was a wash,” Ruane said. “We gave them one, and they gave us one.”
Laffoon's 13-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter gave Penn-Trafford a 14-7 halftime lead.
No. 6 seed Penn-Trafford advances to play Quad East foe McKeesport next week at a site to be determined. The Tigers (10-0) beat the Warriors, 34-14, earlier this season.
“We need to stay disciplined,” said Laffoon, who passed for 96 yards. “Our offensive line is just pounding people off the ball. If we can keep doing that, we can put up points and keep their offense off the field, which is pretty dominant for them.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.