1972 team got it started for Penn-Trafford football program

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Thursday, September 16, 2021 | 2:02 PM


There are times when high schools merge, things don’t go smoothly when it involves athletic teams.

When Penn Joint and Trafford merged in 1972 to form Penn-Trafford, things on the football side went better than expected.

Even though Penn Joint was 4-5 and Trafford 1-8 in their final seasons, Penn-Trafford was better than advertised under the late John “Pat” Kelly, Penn-Trafford’s first football coach.

“We mended together well,” running back Tony Casino said. “When we came together, no one expected us to do well. But through the first six games, we were 5-0-1 and the only blemish was a scoreless tie against Burrell. We would have killed them if we didn’t play in a quagmire. We were one of the only games that night.”

The first Penn-Trafford football team will be honored at halftime of Friday’s home football game against Peters Township and inducted into the Warrior Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Penn-Trafford opened the 1972 season with a 21-0 win at East Allegheny. Senior quarterback Cliff Lavelle scored the first touchdown in school history on a 3-yard run, and Casino scored twice.

Following that win the Warriors defeated Plum (14-6), Southmoreland (20-0) and Yough (20-13) before tying Burrell.

They went to 5-0-1 with a come-from-behind, 26-22 win at Moon after trailing 22-8 at halftime.

The win set up a first-place showdown with Jeannette. The game was switched from Penn Joint’s Memorial Stadium to Jeannette’s McKee Stadium to handle the crowd.

“We got crushed,” Casino said. “But we still had a lot of fun that first season. We created a lot of excitement heading into that game.

“There were a lot of fond memories from that season. One thing I remember was the size of how big our classes became. At Penn Joint, I pretty much knew everyone.”

After the loss to Jeannette, which determined the Keystone Conference title, Penn-Trafford dropped a 42-12 nonconference game to Freedom.

The Warriors ended the season with a 37-14 thrashing of Franklin Regional to finish the season 6-2-1.

Lavelle and Russ Palchak served as team captains.

Dick Brown played for Pennsylvania in the Big 33 game after the season, and he along with Pete Yurisinec, Casino and Nick Agona were named all-Keystone Conference first-team players.

Casino rushed for 1,074 yards and scored eight touchdowns. He rushed for 224 yards in the win against Franklin Regional. Casino, who was a junior, finished his career with 1,724 career yards, a school record that stood for 21 years before Chris Schneider broke it in 1992.

Lavelle completed 46 of 95 passes for 577 yards and three touchdowns. Nick Agona had six catches for 164 yards.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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