Penn-Trafford rallies to down North Allegheny, advance in Class AAAA playoffs
Penn-Trafford found itself in an unfamiliar situation Friday in the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals at Fox Chapel.
The No. 2 Warriors were down 10 points in the fourth quarter and needed a spark, and that’s what they got from a lot of different players.
Quarterback Brett Laffoon and receiver Timmy Vecchio provided the first spark by hooking up on a 57-yard touchdown pass.
Anthony Fiasco accounted for the next when he recovered an onsides kick. Laffoon and Austin Zegarelli then hooked up on the winning touchdown with 4:16 left. Joe Peduzzi sealed the victory with two interceptions in the final three minutes.
It added up to a thrilling 35-31 victory against No. 7 North Allegheny (8-3). Penn-Trafford (11-0) advanced to the semifinals for the second consecutive season and will face No. 3 Central Catholic (10-1), the team that knocked it out of the 2013 playoffs.
“This is what we’ve been working for since Jan. 6: another shot at Central Catholic,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said while huddled around his team after the game. “We made some mistakes, but I liked your resiliency.”
North Allegheny led 10-0 in the second quarter and 31-21 with 11:15 left in the game, but each time Penn-Trafford finished the halves strong.
Penn-Trafford, behind Laffoon touchdown passes of 31 yards to Vecchio and 6 yards to Peduzzi, led 14-10 at halftime.
“It was a phenomenal performance,” Laffoon said. “We fought through some tough times.”
Vecchio called it an amazing game.
North Allegheny used a dominating third quarter to regain the momentum, but Penn-Trafford took over in the fourth.
Laffoon tossed a 57-yard strike to Vecchio with 8:50 left to cut the deficit to 31-28, and after Fiasco recovered the onside kick, Laffoon found Zegarelli for 12 yards in the back of the end zone.
“I don’t know how Timmy saw the ball on his touchdown,” Ruane said. “And Brett is a warrior. He’s been in this position before, throwing late touchdowns last year to beat Gateway and Penn Hills. We threw more than we’re accustomed to. Brett is very poised.”
Vecchio caught nine passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns. He caught a 44-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Laffoon finished by completing 16 of 21 passes for 279 yards.
“When you play North Allegheny, there is going to be a lot of adversity,” Ruane said. “We came up with some bounces, like the onsides kick. Ultimately we had guys make plays.”
North Allegheny’s Josh Bergman opened the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown and scored from 6 yards to start the third quarter. Seth Mancuso’s 33-yard field goal in the second quarter gave North Allegheny a 10-0 lead.
North Allegheny also got a 55-yard touchdown run on a reverse by Ethan Maenza after the Tigers stopped Penn-Trafford on fourth-and-7. The Tigers opened the fourth quarter with Jeff Clemens tossing a 24-yard touchdown pass to Paul Blendinger to make it 31-21.
“They made a couple real big plays,” North Allegheny coach Art Walker Jr. said. “They made some big time catches, and we had some uncharacteristic drops.
“You have to execute. … They had more big plays than us.”
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review sports reporter. You can contact Paul by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .