Gateway, Penn-Trafford battle for bell, conference crown
It's all on the line Friday night at Warriors Stadium — the Quad East title, the Victory Bell, local bragging rights.
Gateway and Penn-Trafford meet for the second year in a row with their game as the one that decides the conference crown.
Last year, the Warriors edged the Gators, 16-14, at Penn-Trafford and went on to claim the championship.
Gateway got a measure of revenge with a 34-9 victory in the WPIAL Quad-A quarterfinals.
But the Gators know that the playoff win over the Warriors didn't wrestle away the conference title, and that is what they want to accomplish Friday.
“We want to win everything each year, and the conference title is a part of that,” Gateway head coach Terry Smith said.
“They are the defending champions, and we want it back. We haven't won a conference title in three years. We know it's going to be a tough battle going down there. It's going to be a hostile environment but also a fun environment. We have to be ready to play 48 minutes.”
Gateway won the 2009 conference title, but McKeesport was the 2010 champ, and the Warriors went undefeated in the conference last year.
“Gateway, Penn-Trafford and McKeesport have been the top three in the conference,” Smith said.
“That's just how it's been the last couple of seasons, and if you look at the standings, there's your top three this year.”
Gateway and Penn-Trafford both are 6-0 in conference and 6-1 overall.
The Warriors have won six straight games since a season-opening nonconference loss to North Hills. P-T shut out Kiski Area, 27-0, last Friday.
The Gators pounded Norwin, 62-14, last week, as they started to get the bad taste of their 14-3 loss to top-ranked North Allegheny on Oct. 5 out of their mouths.
“We knew Penn-Trafford was going to be where they are,” Smith said.
“They are a big mark on our schedule. It's a game that everyone looks forward to as one of the determining factors in deciding the conference championship.”
Penn-Trafford also secured the Victory Bell last year for the first time since the trophy was put back in play in 2008.
Between 1924 and 1957, the bell was a source of pride and the center of the football rivalry between the old Pitcairn and Trafford high schools.
A ceremonial coin toss, featuring alumni from both high schools, will be at midfield at 7 p.m.
Kickoff is set for 7:30.
“We want to bring the Victory Bell back to Gateway, and that comes with the simple goal of getting the win,” Smith said.
Smith said Penn-Trafford is playing good defense this season, and, he said, it was evident in the way the Warriors limited the Cavaliers success on offense last week.
“They have experienced players who can get the job done,” he said.
“They aren't giving up the big plays, and that's something we've had success with. They play a soft-shell defense and keep everything in front of them.”
Senior quarterback Dorian Stevens took over the reigns of the offense from the graduated Zach Emerick.
Stevens, a wide receiver for the Warriors last year, has thrown for 728 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
He was an efficient 7 of 9 passing for 192 yards and two touchdowns against Kiski Area.
Stevens also is a running threat, as he has close to 400 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns, including a 1-yard plunge against the Cavaliers.
“Dorian Stevens is just a terrific athlete,” Smith said.
“They run some zone read and keep the ball in his hands as much as they can. He's been making good decisions and good plays for them.”
Sophomore Devin Austin leads the team with six rushing scores, and he carried the ball 14 times for 172 yards and two touchdowns in Penn-Trafford's 38-17 win over Connellsville on Oct. 5.
“We pretty much know what each other is going to do,” Smith said.
“Football is a simple game. It's just a matter of executing the game plan, taking care of the football, minimizing penalties and playing relentless for four quarters.”
Smith said it was nice to get a lot of players involved in last week's win over Norwin.
“Guys like John Wade and (JaeJuan) Wilkerson got their first touchdowns of the year,” Smith said.
“It was senior night, and they are both seniors who are deserving of the chance to shine.”
Wilkerson got the start at tailback and led the rushing attack with 55 yards and two touchdowns.
Leading rusher Andre Martin, who sat out last week to rest an ankle injury suffered against North Allegheny, is expected to return this week, Smith said.
Senior Thomas Woodson set a school record for touchdown passes in a single game with five in the first half against Norwin.
Junior Montae Nicholson had two of the touchdowns and finished with three catches for 121 yards.
“We threw the ball really well,” Smith said.
“It wasn't perfect, but it was effective.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org