Armed with championship lessons, Penn-Trafford captains ready for next chapter

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Saturday, August 20, 2022 | 8:43 PM


It was quite a way for the 2021 Penn-Trafford football team to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary: winning its first WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A championships.

The Warriors capped a memorable season with a thrilling, 17-14 overtime victory over Imhotep Charter at Hersheypark Stadium on Dec. 10, 2021.

And while the season was historic, Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane, his coaching staff and returning players know it is time to turn the page and start a new chapter.

“That was a special group,” Ruane said. “They were family and played for each other.”

That togetherness is something the 2022 team captains — Daniel Tarabrella, Jake Otto, Conlan Greene, Tommy Kalkstein and Mike Enick — want to continue.

“Being a Warrior means everything,” Otto said. “The brotherhood we formed here is second to none. It makes it a great program to be part of. It’s the players and coaches that really make it what it is.”

Penn-Trafford finished the season with 11 consecutive wins after starting the season 2-2. But the seniors on the 2021 team wouldn’t let the season turn bad.

“It was a great run,” Otto said. “We were down after those two losses, but it was all how we picked each other up, and coach Ruane is a great coach and his gameplan means everything. We follow what he coaches. We have to do what we’re told and do our job.”

Said Kalkstein: “It’s like no other. We’re all from here. No one is coming from other places. We’ve played since we were 5 years old. We love each other as brothers, and it shows.”

Kalkstein and Greene are the top candidates for the quarterback job. Both are excited to lead the offense. Both will be on the field on in some capacity as receivers.

Greene threw the tying touchdown in the PIAA finals and ended the game with a sack on defense.

“It’s going to be a different season from last year,” Greene said. “Coach has his gameplan. He does a good job calling the plays with personnel, no matter who it is.”

Greene said one of the biggest lessons the returning players learned from the 2021 team was the importance of being resilient after the slow start.

“Things changed in practice, and the older guys started picking up some of the younger guys and helping them get better,” Greene said. “We’re trying to carry that on before the season starts so we don’t have to go through those two losses. We want to take it the whole way.”

Enick said he’s excited to take on a captaincy role.

“I want to lead by example,” Enick said. “I want to do what is right.

“There is a lot to take away from last year’s group. One was the family aspect and what they brought to the team. We were just bonded together. It was awesome.”

Tarabrella was a monster on defense, leading the team in tackles. He also threw some nasty blocks to spring big runs for Cade Yacamelli against Imhotep.

“We’re very excited for the season and looking to keep progressing and keep getting better,” Tarabrella said.

Ruane said one of the biggest things he learned last season was what he’s been doing works.

“Every season is different,” Ruane said. “You have to adjust to your personnel. We’re going to be a lot different team this season than we were last year.”

Ruane has been able to elevate Penn-Trafford from a good program to an elite program.

“Things started to change at Penn-Trafford when John Yaccino was hired as coach in 1988 and we beat Jeannette to open the season,” Penn-Trafford historian Rush Pedder said. “John was arrogant, and he brought swagger and attitude to the program. He made the program relevant.”

Penn-Trafford made the WPIAL playoffs once (1981) before 1988. Since then, the program started making the playoffs on a consistent basis. After Yaccino left in 1995, Art Tragresser (1996-2008) was hired and he kept the program going rolling. Penn-Trafford has made the playoffs 29 out of the past 34 years.

“When John (Ruane) was hired to replace T.J. Wiley, who lasted one season (2009), he took over and elevated the program to the next level,” Pedder said. “The players love playing for him. It’s fun to watch.”

Before Ruane became the coach, Penn-Trafford’s playoff record was 7-19. Ruane is 17-10 during his tenure and 2-0 in the PIAA playoffs.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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