Coach rejoins spirited rivalry between Norwin, Penn-Trafford

Wednesday, September 27, 2023 | 5:41 PM

Mike Brown is very familiar with the rivalry between Penn-Trafford and Norwin.

The Knights’ first-year coach is a Penn-Trafford graduate and played in the game three times. Penn-Trafford won two of the three games, losing in 2007.

“When I played, it was a game we always got up for,” Brown said. “It was usually the last game of the season, and you knew each other because you played against them growing up and in other sports.”

The 2007 game was one of only a few wins for the Knights since 1990 when the teams started to play annually.

Penn-Trafford holds a 29-8 lead in the series, which began in 1976. Norwin won the first meeting 28-6 and also four of the first five games.

The Warriors are 28-4 since 1990. They did not play in 2020 because of covid. Penn-Trafford won last year’s game 28-0.

“Since I became coach, we’ve had some great games,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “We’ve had high-scoring games, a 3-0 game, and both teams have mounted comebacks. This has a chance to be another great one.”

The teams enter this WPIAL Class 5A Big East game with identical records: 2-3 overall and 1-0 in the conference. The victor will remain in the hunt for the conference title and a berth in the playoffs.

In Class 5A, automatic playoff bids go to the top two finishers in each of the three conferences. Two other berths will be earned by the teams that finish better in the WPIAL point system.

Being in the postseason conversation is not unusual for Penn-Trafford, but it represents a step forward for Norwin, which went 1-9 last season.

“It’s easy to coach these guys,” Brown said. “They are listening to how we’re coaching, and they’ve worked extremely hard.

“It’s going to be a physical game. It always is against them. The players are excited to play them.”

Ruane said it seems that the Norwin players have bought into the system Brown brought from Hempfield.

“They are playing with an edge,” Ruane said. “They are playing like a good team and playing with confidence.”

Norwin is coming off a tough 30-23 nonconference loss at Woodland Hills. The Knights had a late potential game-tying drive come up short.

Despite its record, Norwin has been in all of its games. The Knights lost late to Upper St. Clair (24-21), rallied to defeat Plum (30-23) and fell to Woodland Hills (30-23). Penn Hills beat the Knights, 27-0, and it ran away from Fox Chapel, 33-18.

Brown said sophomore quarterback Tristyn Tavares has done everything in running the offense. He has completed 65 of 134 passes for 1,150 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Jake Knight is Norwin’s leading receiver with 19 catches for 306 yards. Jackson Pons has caught 17 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns, and Luke Denny has 12 catches for 353 yards and five scores.

“Tristyn is a gamer,” Brown said. “He’s extremely talented and football smart. He gets knocked down and bounces back up.”

Penn-Trafford, meanwhile, finally found the end zone at home last week after being blanked by Canon-McMillan and Belle Vernon. Running back Tasso Whipple had a record performance in a 41-18 victory against Hempfield. He rushed for a school-record 300 yards and scored four touchdowns.

Both coaches agree that this game will be won up front. Against Hempfield, freshman Ben Grabowski ran 10 times for 82 yards and a score to supplement Whipple’s record total.

“We’ll go with whatever works,” Ruane said. “Last week, it was the running game. The credit goes to the offensive line for opening up holes for Tasso and Ben.

“Norwin is playing with confidence. We need to cut down on the drive-killing penalties. They’ve been killing us.”

While Whipple and Grabowski handle the running duties, junior quarterback Jonny Lovre and wide receiver Carmen Metcalfe are key components in the passing game.

The series

Penn-Trafford leads, 29-8

2022: Penn-Trafford, 28-0

2021: Penn-Trafford, 35-14

2020: DNP

2019: Penn-Trafford, 42-7

2018: Norwin, 44-36

2017: Penn-Trafford, 3-0

2016: Penn-Trafford, 17-14

2015: Penn-Trafford, 38-14

2014: Penn-Trafford, 49-0

2013: Penn-Trafford, 17-3

2012: Penn-Trafford, 27-7

2011: Penn-Trafford, 35-0

2010: Norwin, 42-34

2009: Penn-Trafford, 38-17

2008: Penn-Trafford, 13-6

2007: Norwin, 27-6

2006: Penn-Trafford, 44-13

2005: Penn-Trafford, 47-28

2004: Penn-Trafford, 41-15

2003: Penn-Trafford, 15-3

2002: Penn-Trafford, 19-0

2001: Penn-Trafford, 21-7

2000: Penn-Trafford, 22-16

1999: Penn-Trafford, 14-7

1998: Norwin, 21-8

1997: Penn-Trafford, 42-7

1996: Penn-Trafford, 43-28

1995: Penn-Trafford, 35-0

1994: Penn-Trafford, 7-6

1993: Penn-Trafford, 28-21

1992: Penn-Trafford, 22-15

1991: Penn-Trafford, 28-3

1990: Penn-Trafford, 14-0

1989-1984: DNP

1983: Norwin, 17-14

1982: Penn-Trafford, 20-0

1981: Norwin, 26-7

1980: Norwin, 13-0

1979-1977: DNP

1976: Norwin, 28-6

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

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