California ground game too much for Jeannette in Class A 1st round

Friday, November 3, 2023 | 11:18 PM

An earthquake of a running game was too much for Jeannette to overcome as California ran over the Jayhawks for a 44-6 win in a WPIAL Class A first-round game Friday at Trojans Stadium.

The Trojans piled up 367 yards of total offense, all on the ground, with Spencer Petrucci and Jake Layhue doing the damage.

Petrucci entered the game with 1,340 yards rushing and left the field over the 1,500-yard mark as he carried 22 times for 205 yards and three touchdowns. He also added a fourth touchdown on a 67-yard kick return.

“He’s deceptively fast,” California coach Ed Woods said of the senior running back. “He’s continuously running north and south, and he can shake off tacklers and break away. He’s one of those kids that just doesn’t go down.”

It wasn’t just Petrucci punishing the Jayhawks’ defense, as Layhue, California’s quarterback, finished with 145 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns.

“Having that one-two punch is really hard for a defense to account for,” Woods said. “Especially when one of those two is the quarterback.”

Layhue is a weapon in the Trojans’ passing game, but they didn’t even need to attempt a pass Friday.

“If they can’t stop us running the ball, we don’t need to throw it. We’re going to keep on running it,” Woods added.

The Trojans led 6-0 after a quarter after a Layhue 6-yard run on the opening drive of the game. California (10-1) marched 59 yards in 10 plays, chewing up nearly seven minutes.

California exploded for 22 second-quarter points, using big plays to spark the offense.

After a Jayhawks punt to start the quarter, Petrucci ran for 37 yards down to the 3-yard line. On the next play, he was in to make it 12-0.

Jeannette quarterback Payton Molter, who was a game-time decision due to an injury, had the ball stripped away by Layhue on the ensuing drive. Three plays later, Petrucci found the end zone again with a 44-yard touchdown run. A 2-point run from Layhue made it 20-0.

“We scored a lot of points, but this defense has really come together,” Woods said. “It’s a whole new system with a new defensive coordinator with coach (Darwin) Manges, and they’ve been fantastic all season. They’re really fast and athletic all over the field.”

After another Jayhawks’ punt, the Trojans marched 77 yards in seven plays for another touchdown. The drive started with a 34-yard run from Layhue and ended with a 10-yard scoring plunge from Petrucci. Another Layhue conversion made it 28-0 at the half.

“I was really happy with the offensive line,” Woods said. “Jeannette has some really good defensive lineman and tackles on that unit. It was something we were a little worried about heading into the game. The line did a good job of holding their blocks against their good size.”

The Jayhawks and Molter came out of the locker room and immediately got on the board.

The senior quarterback connected with Noah Sanders on a 43-yard touchdown pass to end a quick five-play drive. The PAT hit the upright to keep it at 28-6.

The Jayhawks (7-4) tried to connect on a soft line-drive onside kick, but Petrucci was in the right spot to pick it up on a bounce and took it 67 yards for his fourth touchdown of the night. Lee Qualk ran in the 2-pointer to make it 36-6.

Both teams were forced to punt on their next drives and a Jayhawks’ drive was stopped on Layhue’s second interception of the night.

Layhue forced all three Jayhawks turnovers, and the Trojans’ added sacks by Petrucci, Malachi Peak and Fred Sherman.

Layhue added a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter to start the running clock.

“This is a team I was really excited about as early as the summer,” Woods said of his Trojans. “I know what everyone says about the Tri-County, but Mapletown started it last year with a win in the first round. I think the conference was a little better this year, and we know the kind of team we are.

“Now, we’re on to next week.”

The Trojans will face No. 3 Bishop Canevin in the quarterfinals next Friday.

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