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Semifinal berth on the line in matchup of Penn-Trafford, NA

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Barry Reeger | Trib Total Media
Penn-Trafford quarterback Brett Laffoon scrambles past Hempfield's Jake Hoffner during their WPIAL Class AAAA contest at Spartan Stadium on Oct. 3, 2014, in Hempfield. Penn-Trafford defeated Hempfield, 35-21.

Penn-Trafford and North Allegheny already have met on the gridiron this season.

It was a controlled scrimmage Aug. 22 before the regular season began.

There is a lot more on the line Friday when the teams will square off in the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. at Fox Chapel, most notably a berth in the semifinals against the winner of Central Catholic and Woodland Hills.

“There was no game-planning for the scrimmage,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “Both teams were using a lot of players getting ready for the season. At least we did see some of their personnel.”

No 2 Penn-Trafford (10-0) went on to roll through the Quad East Conference, and No. 7 North Allegheny (8-2), after edging Seneca Valley and then falling to No. 1 Pine-Richland and No. 3 Central Catholic, finished by winning seven consecutive games to place third in the Quad North.

“A lot has changed since then,” North Allegheny coach Art Waller Jr. said. “We were getting ready for our first three games. We had no choice but to get ready.

“We challenged the players at the beginning, and after the 1-2 start, they’ve responded well. The offensive line has been playing more consistent, and quarterback Jeff Clemens has been great.”

But Walker said his defense is playing well and as a unit.

“We don’t have any superstars,” Walker said. “Everyone has stepped up.”

Clemens is a dual-threat quarterback who has rushed for 377 yards, but Ruane said his play-action passing is excellent. He has completed 74 of 151 passes for 1,146 yards, 12 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Ruane said prior to the start of the playoffs that the quarterfinals would feature some great matchups. He’s just happy his team survived a first-round scare against Fox Chapel.

Penn-Trafford rallied in the second half to defeat the Foxes, 40-13. North Allegheny had no problem defeating Upper St, Clair, 24-0, for the second time this season.

“Fox Chapel played well, and we didn’t play our best,” Ruane said. “We made a lot of mistakes, something we can’t afford to do against North Allegheny.

“Every possession will be important. You can’t take a series off against them. The no-huddle offense is tough to defend, and they have a lot of good players.”

Penn-Trafford isn’t short on talent, either. Running backs Devin Austin (1,266 yards, 15 TDs) and Jonah Lisbon (465, 8 TDs) have combined to rush for 1,731 yards and 23 touchdowns, quarterback Brett Laffoon has completed 75 of 114 passes for 1,499 yards and 21 touchdowns, and wide receiver Timmy Vecchio has 32 catches for 775 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Walker said it starts all up front for Penn-Trafford. That group includes tackles Dan Sich and Trey Blandford, guards Andre Guest and Donovan McNelis and center Garrett Smith.

“Their offensive line is very physical and aggressive,” Walker said. “They are a solid unit from tight end to tight end, and their defense is very good, too.”

Ruane said he’s just as impressed with North Allegheny’s offensive line. The group includes tackles Cole McKenry and Ryan Jelinek, guards Nick Burks and Brian Mitchell and center Charles Sanders.

Running behind North Allegheny’s line are running backs Michael Pope (523 yards, 4 TDs) and (Josh Bergman 466 yards, 5 TDs).

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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