Norwin/Penn-Trafford football rivalry comes early
What has been a season-ending tradition in recent years is back to being an early-season battle.
Norwin and Penn-Trafford will square off on the football field at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Norwin Knights Stadium, and though the rivalry game isn't one week before the start of the playoffs, both coaches see the second-week game as significant for their teams' respective playoff chances.
Both teams enter the game after a road loss in their opener last Friday — Norwin fell to Altoona, 35-14, in a Quad East Conference battle, while Penn-Trafford dropped a 28-14 game in nonconference play at North Hills — and with a game against its biggest rival up next, each team will want to avoid an 0-2 start even more.
“It's a big game for our kids to have bragging rights. It's been a rivalry for years and years,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “It's a game the kids don't want to lose, so I think they'll prepare well this week.”
“It's a rivalry game and it's a section game,” Norwin coach Art Tragesser said.
“It's always nice to play your home opener, but sometimes that and playing your rival puts a little more pressure on the kids. The most important thing is that it's a section game, and we need to do a better job preparing for that.”
Tragesser was on the opposite sideline the last time that Norwin and Penn-Trafford met before the final week of the season. On Aug. 29, 2003, Tragesser's Penn-Trafford team defeated Norwin, 15-3, in a season opener that was positioned on that date because the Knights and Warriors were in different conferences for that season.
Since that meeting, the game was the finale in the old Quad South Conference for both teams, with Penn-Trafford winning six of the eight meetings. P-T won last year's meeting, 35-0, to close out a perfect regular season and avenge a loss to end the 2010 regular season.
This year, with five of the nine teams in the Quad East Conference assured of a playoff berth, the game is by no means a must-win. However, P-T wants to open its conference title defense with a win, while Norwin is aiming to avoid an 0-2 start in their section, as well as overall.
“The kids got a load of experience last week. We had two freshmen play quite a bit, and some sophomores and juniors saw their first extensive action,” Tragesser said. “I wish we had an exhibition game first, but that's not how it worked out. P-T lost an exhibition, but we lost a section game. We have to put the rivalry aside and just prepare to try and get a section win.”
“With this new conference schedule, (playing Norwin first) is one of the drawbacks,” Ruane said. “That North Hills game was definitely meaningful because you only get nine games, but hopefully, we got out some of the bugs before we begin conference games.”
Norwin started its season looking like a team getting its feet wet, as Altoona pulled out to a 21-0 halftime lead.
The Knights showed improvement and resiliency in the second half, as they scored first on a 47-yard run by Casey Rebosky. The two-point conversion, a pass from John Driggers to Tony Schiavone, made the score 21-8.
Altoona extended the lead back to 20 points before the end of the third quarter, but Norwin came right back with a 97-yard kickoff return by Jake LaGorga to make the score 28-14 and give the Knights a chance entering the final quarter.
Avery Howsare finished the game with 160 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Mountain Lions (1-0, 1-0), who are looking for their first playoff berth as a WPIAL team this season.
“I really don't think our kids did that bad,” Tragesser said. “I was more upset with myself than the kids because I might have given them too much to think about before that opening game.
“We made some good plays on offense and defense — but not enough of them. I think I burdened them with too many details, so we're going to try and cut back a little and work on doing a few things well instead of giving them too much.”
Penn-Trafford also had a shot to win entering the final quarter of its game, as the Warriors were tied, 7-7, with the host Indians (1-0) when the fourth quarter began.
Devin Austin's 1-yard scoring run in the third quarter tied the game after North Hills took a 7-0 lead in the first half on a 2-yard run by Jordan Blackmon. Blackmon added a 21-yard scoring run to put North Hills ahead, and Tyler Reddick got the first of two touchdown runs from 6 yards away to give the Indians a 21-7 lead.
Dom Cima got P-T back in the game with an 80-yard touchdown reception from Ryan Marasti, but Reddick's second score, a 46-yard run, sealed the game for the home team.
Cima finished with 123 yards on four receptions to lead the Warriors, while Blackmon ran for 115 yards on 10 carries for North Hills.
“We played well on defense for the most part of three quarters, and offensively, we did well but didn't finish drives,” Ruane said.
“But I thought we didn't play well at all in the fourth quarter, and we'll have to work on that.
“I was happy with a number of guys making their first start, and Dom Cima was really a leader on the field for us. We just self-destructed on some drives, whether we fumbled a snap or took a penalty, and it caught up with us in the end.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.