Stevens does in all in win over Altoona
Players who play on offense, defense and multiple special teams units aren't uncommon in high school football. A quarterback doing that is much more rare.
Yet that's exactly what Penn-Trafford senior Dorian Stevens is doing for the Warriors this year, and it paid off Friday, as the starting quarterback and cornerback threw for the game-winning touchdown and returned a punt 64 yards for another in a 21-14 win over Altoona at Warriors Stadium.
Stevens finished with 76 rushing yards, Tom Stinelli had 100 yards and a score on the ground, and Devin Austin added 62 rushing yards to help Penn-Trafford (2-1, 2-0) join Gateway as the only two teams without a loss in Quad East Conference play.
The contribution of Stevens to the winning effort was seen in all phases of the game, but his punt return with P-T trailing, 7-6, in the third quarter was the moment that turned the game in the Warriors' favor.
After the defense stuffed Altoona (1-2, 1-2) on three straight run plays to start the second half, the Mountain Lions punted from their own 31. The punt fell to Stevens — one of two deep players for P-T with Ryan Marasti — who ran to his left and picked up a block from Marasti before turning straight upfield with a wall of blockers to guide him.
“I heard Ryan Marasti, who actually said to call fair catch, but I wanted to go with it,” Stevens said. “I got out around the wall and saw daylight from there.”
Stevens then added two more points and increased the lead to seven by running in a fake extra point as the holder on the field goal team.
Altoona battled back to tie the game, 14-14 on the second scoring run of the game by Avery Howsare. Penn-Trafford answered that with a 16-play drive that lasted 9:09 and was capped off with a 6-yard pass to tight end Vincent Hetherington, who Stevens found after moving off the intended target for the play.
“We're supposed to hit (Brian) McDonough on the out on that play, but Vinny Hetherington popped open for me,” Stevens said. “It wasn't the right read, but it was there, so I had to get it to him.”
To cap off a complete day, Stevens broke up a pass on Altoona's final possession, as he and the rest of the secondary came up big after losing senior Dom Cima to a head injury earlier in the game.
“I love that my coach believes in me and lets me play both ways like that,” Stevens said. “He runs us a lot to keep us in shape for that, but I've been (playing both ways) for a while, and I can go as long as my coach wants me to.”
As for coach John Ruane, he said he'd rather not be putting his offensive leader in the line of fire all the time, but he wants to keep his best players on the field.
“We're going to go with our best guys, and that's what we've got,” Ruane said. “Dorian certainly is one of our best athletes, and he's been catching punts for three years because he has the surest hands. I'd like to take him out some, and hopefully we can in the future, but then we lose that spark that he brings.”
Stevens will hope to spark the Warriors again this week in a big conference matchup, at home against McKeesport (1-2, 1-1) this Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The Tigers were reeling after back-to-back losses to Hempfield and Woodland Hills, but they got into the win column last week with a 26-7 victory over Norwin. McKeesport is led by an excellent quarterback of its own, Akron recruit Eddie Stockett, who had all three Tigers touchdowns last week.
To counter that, Penn-Trafford will hope to keep the McKeesport offense off the field by controlling the ball as they did against Altoona in the second half. Accomplishing that, Ruane said, begins with the boys on the offensive line.
“I thought the offensive line played (against Altoona) the best game they've played, by far, and it was against the biggest, most physical defensive line we've seen to this point,” Ruane said. “All three of our backs were tremendous running the ball, and they will all tell you it's because the offensive line played their butts off.”
With a chance to stay atop the Quad East with a 10th straight conference win, Stevens said the Warriors will be motivated.
“We have expectations to meet, and we're not going to fall short of those,” Stevens said. “This (Altoona game) was an example of that, and we have to come out next week and do our thing versus McKeesport.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.