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Franklin Regional, Norwin, Penn-Trafford compete at annual WCCA 7-on-7 tournament

| Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn-Trafford's Austin Zegarelli attempts to intercept a pass in front of a Latrobe wide receiver in the championship game of the Westmoreland County Coaches Association 7 on 7 football tournament at Franklin Regional High School on July 17, 2014, in Murrysville. Penn-Trafford defeated Latrobe, 21-7.
Doug Gulasy | Trib Total Media
Norwin quarterback Sean Bowen looks to pass during a game against Penn-Trafford at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association 7-on-7 tournament on July 17, 2014, at Franklin Regional High School.
Doug Gulasy | Trib Total Media
Franklin Regional quarterback Andrew Brncic prepares to throw during a game against Penn-Trafford at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association 7-on-7 tournament on Thursday, July 17, 2014, at Franklin Regional High School.

The hitting won't begin until preseason camp begins Aug. 11, but local football teams are preparing for the upcoming season in any way they can.

Franklin Regional, Norwin and Penn-Trafford participated last week in the Westmoreland County Coaches Association 7-on-7 tournament at Franklin Regional. The fourth-year event brought together 13 teams from around the county, with each playing at least five games.

“We just hope it continues to grow,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. “The coaches, No. 1, are great men. We get along extremely well. (When) we're out here snapping the ball, we're competitive. But after it's over, it's over. We let it lie. It's about getting work and seeing different offenses and defenses and correcting the mistakes to get ready for the season.”

Although the 7-on-7 tournament featured only passing and minimal contact, coaches said they saw value in competing.

“We're just happy to come out and compete,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “Summer's kind of monotonous if you don't do stuff like this, where you get some competition (against) some teams we'll see over the course of the year.

“Other than that, what's it really mean when it boils down to it in the season? Not much. But we're happy our guys came out and competed. Any competition you can do is a good thing.”

Teams from Franklin Regional, Greensburg Central Catholic, Greensburg Salem, Hempfield, Jeannette, Kiski Area, Latrobe, Mt. Pleasant, Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Southmoreland, Valley and Yough participated in the WCCA event. Belle Vernon had to back out at the last minute, so “B” teams from Franklin Regional and Penn-Trafford split the Leopards' schedule.

“It was very, very competitive, very even from top to bottom,” WCCA President Larry Sellito said.

For the second straight season, Penn-Trafford won the championship, beating Latrobe, 21-7, in the title game. Rising junior quarterback Brett Laffoon threw touchdown passes to Sam Guzik, Tyler Bruno and Austin Zegarelli in the championship game.

“His timing improved a lot over the course of the summer,” Ruane said of Laffoon. “I was happy that he was delivering the ball when he should have. He's an experienced guy now, so we have high expectations for him.”

Ruane said the team's experienced defense also played well during the tournament.

Penn-Trafford scaled back in its 7-on-7 participation this year after suffering some injuries in games last summer.

“I can breathe now because we didn't get any injuries this summer,” Ruane said.

Franklin Regional went 2-3 in pool play, beating Greensburg Central Catholic and Valley.

“We started off very slow,” Botta said. “We looked really bad against Norwin, and then we picked it up at the end and won two of our last three. I think we looked our best against Valley (in our last game). That's something you want to try to build on, just keep the kids pushing through.”

Botta said the 7-on-7 was a valuable experience for his two quarterbacks, rising senior Andrew Brncic and rising junior Santino Birty. The two are competing for the team's starting job.

“Where we are now, they've improved greatly,” he said. “But there are still dips and peaks, and hopefully we can continue that uphill climb. They're very inexperienced, and they need the work. We're built around running the football, too, so that will help out.”

Norwin went 4-1 in pool play, beating Franklin Regional, Greensburg Central Catholic, Mt. Pleasant and Valley and losing to Penn-Trafford.

“I definitely see some good things, some nice plays,” Brozeski said. “There's some things we need to work on. It's always those little things that you're trying to adjust, working on what your reads are and what your keys are. We're constantly getting that information so you can not make a mistake in the future.”

Rising senior Sean Bowen and rising junior Nick Amendola both saw action at quarterback during the tournament.

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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