Penn-Trafford eases past Hempfield
If No. 3 Penn-Trafford wants to make noise in the upcoming WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs, it has some things to clean up by season’s end.
Penn-Trafford (6-0, 6-0) remained undefeated Friday by defeating an improving Hempfield squad 35-21 at Spartan Stadium in a Quad East Conference contest, but penalties and missed assignments tempered the celebration.
The victory clinched a playoff berth for the Warriors, but coach John Ruane knows the team has to perform better.
“It wasn’t our best performance,” Ruane said. “A lot of penalties, sloppy play and an uncharacteristic bad play on special teams.
“That being said, we still won the game and made some key stops in the second half. The goal-line stand was huge. That was a big difference in the second half.”
Penn-Trafford was leading 35-14 late in the third quarter and was in punt formation when the snap sailed over David Benson’s head. Hempfield took over at the Penn-Trafford 5. But on fourth down, linebacker Austin Zegarelli stopped Lorenzo Barchetti.
“We’ve been playing better, even last week at McKeesport,” Hempfield coach Rich Bowen said. “We played well in a lot of areas, and we got better. Not punching it in inside the 5 hurt us.”
Penn-Trafford’s offense wasn’t a problem. The Warriors outgained Hempfield, 458-210, and junior quarterback Brett Laffoon nearly was perfect, completing 10 of 13 passes for 207 yards and four touchdowns.
He tossed scoring strikes to Tim Vecchio (35 and 27 yards), Tyler Bruno (34) and Devin Austin (14). He was 7 for 7 for 137 yards in the first half as Penn-Trafford opened up a 28-14 lead.
But penalties nullified two touchdowns: a 74-yard interception return by Vecchio and a 95-yard touchdown run by Austin in the third quarter.
Austin led a potent ground attack, rushing for 148 yards on 22 carries. Jonah Lisbon, who opened the scoring with an 18-yard run, finished with 89 yards on 10 carries.
“Everyone has been doing a good job on offense,” Austin said. “It starts up front, and we’re really clicking on offense.”
The first three times Penn-Trafford possessed the ball, it drove 80 yards for scores.
“Hempfield is a lot better than a 1-5 team,” Ruane said. “They’ve run into some bad luck. They’ve moved the ball on everyone and we knew we were in for a battle.”
In the first quarter, Hempfield matched Penn-Trafford score for score. Junior quarterback Daniel Walters scored on a 1-yard run after it looked like he was going to take a 10-yard loss. He escaped six Penn-Trafford defenders and scored. He also tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Dante Luther to tie the game 14-14 in the first quarter.
Walters completed 12 of 18 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
In the second quarter, Hempfield made a couple mistakes to allow Penn-Trafford to open up a two touchdown lead.
“There was a three-play series in the second quarter that we had an interception and a couple bad snaps and it (put) us out of our rhythm,” Bowen said. “But I’m proud that we bounced back from that.”
Vecchio’s 27-yard catch for a touchdown in the third quarter made it 35-14. He finished with five catches for 117 yards.
Walters tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Sliwoski in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 35-21.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review sports reporter. You can contact Paul by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .