McKeesport, Penn-Trafford set for rematch in WPIAL quarterfinals
Ten games into the high school football season, no team has been able to slow McKeesport's vaunted flexbone offense.
Penn-Trafford, one of those that has tried, will get a second chance in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal game Friday night at Norwin.
Third-seeded McKeesport, sparked by Allen Wright's 75-yard touchdown run, beat Penn-Trafford, 34-14, on Sept. 20. David Queen and Mikell Moore each scored twice for the Tigers.
“You can't let them get big plays,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said.
His sixth-seeded Warriors scored the game's first touchdown, then watched the Tigers quickly accelerate en route to a 27-point fourth-quarter lead.
“Penn-Trafford is way better than they were before,” McKeesport coach George Smith said.
Smith, back on the sidelines following a notable three-year absence, has returned a measurable presence to the McKeesport program, one that has achieved two PIAA titles under his reign. The Tigers (10-0) won a first-round playoff game for the first time in five years, beating Peters Township, 54-28, on Friday.
Though McKeesport scored a touchdown on eight of its 10 possessions, its defense yielded the most points in a game this season.
“We thought it was getting better,” Smith said of his team's defense. “We run a lot of zone schemes. That hasn't been the case in the past. It's a complicated set. Since a lot of those guys don't play offense, we do have a chance to meet with them when they're not on the field. Particularly our corners, outside linebackers and safeties.
“That's an important element because we tend to make mistakes.”
McKeesport was victimized by Peters Township's passing attack, as quarterback Tim Swoope threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns on 19-of-34 passing.
McKeesport still prevailed by a big margin, running the ball almost exclusively with a unique and effective triple-option attack.
“We want to take another step,” Ruane said. “We want to be one of those schools still there at the end.”
Smith enters Friday's game — among four rematches of regular-season contests in the WPIAL playoffs — 100 games over .500 with a career coaching record of 207-107-5. He's not a fan of the current scenario involving his Tigers.
“You can watch them from before and recognize what they did before,” he said of Penn-Trafford (7-3). “You can prepare for that, but you never know if they're going to change things up.
“I don't like doing it,” he said of the rematch, “but we've done it before.”
Twice under Smith, most recently in 2005, when McKeesport went on to capture its second PIAA championship, the Tigers faced Mt. Lebanon during the regular season and in the playoffs, resulting in a pair of victories, including a 39-18 win in the Class AAAA semifinals.
McKeesport eventually beat Bethlehem Liberty, 49-10, on Dec. 10 in Hershey for the PIAA championship, capping a 14-2 season several weeks after defeating Woodland Hills in the WPIAL title game.
Despite a 20-point victory in its previous game against Penn-Trafford, McKeesport's offense only outgained the Warriors, 285-232.
“Ball control is going to be a key,” Ruane said. “We've got to be able to hold on to the ball and keep their offense off the field as much as possible.”
In a 22-16 first-round victory over Penn Hills, sophomore Brett Laffoon passed for one touchdown to Tim Vecchio and rushed for another to lead the Warriors. Vecchio also scored on a fumble recovery.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Laffoon “has a good arm and is a good runner,” Smith said.
The winner moves on to the semifinals on Nov. 15 against either second-seeded Central Catholic or seventh-seeded Gateway.