No. 2 Penn-Trafford blanks No. 3 Gateway in showdown
One thing Penn-Trafford’s opponents find out quickly is you better be ready for anything.
Warriors coach John Ruane will empty the playbook to beat you, and he did that Friday in the WPIAL Class 5A Big East Conference showdown for first-place at Warrior Stadium.
The Warriors opened the game by recovering an onside kick. Three plays later, they attempted a trick play as running back John Gay IV pitched back to quarterback Cam Laffoon after taking a handoff, and Laffoon launched a pass downfield.
Even though the trickery didn’t result in points, it set the tone of the game.
No. 2 Penn-Trafford (6-0, 4-0) scored on its next three possessions, forced a fumble at its 10 and stopped Gateway in its territory three times on its way to a 28-0 victory.
But the start of the game isn’t what Ruane had planned. He didn’t call for the onside kick.
“One of the players accidentally called for the onside kick, and it worked out, thank goodness,” Ruane said. “We didn’t want to start the game that way.”
Penn-Trafford took advantage of a decimated Gateway offensive and defensive lines, and then made the Gators one-dimensional when they lost their top two running backs — Isaiah Cameron and Derrick Davis — to leg injuries in the first half.
No. 3 Gateway (5-1, 3-1) turned the ball over three times and minus-6 yards rushing.
“There are no excuses at this time of the year,” Gateway coach Don Holl said. “Credit goes to them. We got outcoached, got outplayed and got out-executed. We have to go back to work.”
The Penn-Trafford defense pitched its third shutout of the season. The Warriors harassed Gateway quarterback Brady Walker the entire game. The senior completed 21 of 42 passes for 210 yards.
“Our defense was the story of the night and we did it without Logan Hawkins, who got hurt on the first series of the game,” Ruane said. “He’s our star defensive lineman, but Will Mayr is a guy that needs to be known a little more than he is. He’s been phenomenal for six games.
“Our linebackers were phenomenal, and Matt Wilkie played a heck of a game. The key was our secondary. That’s the toughest team you’re ever going to defend, and I thought they were fantastic. They covered well, they tackled well. They stepped their game up, and we challenged them all week.”
Mayr said he was motivated for Hawkins, who injured his left leg.
“Logan is my buddy,’ Mayr said. “I’m going to play my hardest for him. But we have a lot of depth, and we got the shutout. We’ve had this game circled all year, and we all stepped up”
Penn-Trafford quarterback Cam Laffoon led the Warriors offense with his feet and arm. He rushed for 86 yards and completed 5 of 11 passes for 107 yards and the first two scores of the game — 2 yards to Dominic Rosso and 28 yards to Cameron Suman for a 14-0 lead.
Penn-Trafford senior running back John Gay IV, whose father John graduated from Gateway in 1981, rushed for 118 yards and two scores — a 5-yard dash in the second quarter that gave Penn-Trafford a 21-0 halftime lead and a 31-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter to finish off the Gators.
“Gateway is a great team and we came out and were ready for what they did,” Gay said. “It was a great job by our defense. The offense came on strong, but it was the defense that was the MVP of this game.”
Penn-Trafford rushed for 228 yards.
Ruane said he’s pleased with the start, but the season is far from over.
“We’ve learned from the mistakes from last year,” Ruane said. “Our goal is to improve every single week, and we cannot make this the peak of our season. We can’t have a letdown next week. Franklin Regional is terrific.
“We have championship aspirations, like everybody, but that’s our goal. This win is nice for a night. Then we have to go back to work.”
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.