Ethan Carr drives Penn-Trafford past Upper St. Clair, into WPIAL semifinals
Friday, November 8, 2019 | 10:57 PM
Penn-Trafford junior Ethan Carr is a game changer.
After the Warriors gave up the lead early in the third quarter of Friday’s WPIAL Class 5A quarterfinal, Carr switched the momentum back in seconds.
Carr returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown, and the Warriors scored 28 consecutive points, rolling to a 31-7 victory over Upper St. Clair.
No. 1 Penn-Trafford (11-1) will face Peters Township (11-1), which defeated Moon in the other quarterfinal-round game, at 7 p.m. next Friday at a site to be determined. Peters Township defeated Penn-Trafford, 38-35, in the 2018 quarterfinals.
After Carr’s kickoff return, the Penn-Trafford defense forced turnovers on three consecutive possessions, and the Warriors converted all into points.
“Ethan Carr has been unbelievable all season long,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “It seems that every time we need a spark, No. 12 has the ball in his hands. It was a big-time kickoff return, and it got our juices going, and the defense took over from there. That’s a tough offense to defend.”
Penn-Trafford’s defense, which was forced to chase Upper St. Clair junior quarterback Ethan Dahlem all night long, started taking the ball away.
“I was disappointed with our first-half performance,” Carr said. “I felt if we couldn’t do it on offense, we had to do it on special teams and defense. Making a big play was all I was thinking about.”
Mason Frye picked off a pass and returned it to the Upper St. Clair 29. Six plays later, quarterback Gabe Dunlap scored from the USC 5.
“That’s high school football,” Upper St. Clair coach Mike Junko said. “One second you have the momentum, and then the kickoff return gave it back to them. We just couldn’t get it back.”
No. 9 Upper St. Clair finished 7-5.
After Dahlem scrambled and completed a pass to Joe Lackner, he fumbled and the Warriors’ Cole Defillippo returned it to the USC 44. Ten plays later, after a Sam Fanelli touchdown run was called back because of a penalty, Dunlap and Carr hooked up on an 18-yard pass to push the lead to 24-7 early in the fourth quarter.
“The defense bent, but we didn’t break,” Penn-Trafford linebacker Chase Burks said. “We started playing well. Ethan’s return gave us the momentum back.”
Upper St. Clair drove to the Penn-Trafford 14, but David Pantella couldn’t handle a high pitch and Fanelli recovered at the 20. Two plays later, Dunlap ripped off a 73-yard touchdown to finish off the Panthers.
Penn-Trafford dominated the first half but only had three points to show for it, a 39-yard field goal by Nathan Schlessinger on the Warriors’ second possession.
Dunlap rushed for 170 yards, while Dahlem ran for 106.
Pantella made a diving interception of a Dunlap pass at the Panthers’ 2 to stop the first drive, and the Warriors turned the ball over on downs on their third possession. The first half ended when Carr’s Hail Mary pass tipped off Noah Allen’s hands at the goal line.
Upper St. Clair drove to midfield before being stopped by the Penn-Trafford defense on its first possession. The Warriors had to hustle to slow down the Panthers’ fast-pace offense led by Dahlem.
After the Penn-Trafford field goal, USC was forced to punt after picking up a first down on a pass interference penalty.
Upper St. Clair leads the all-time series, 6-2. The Warriors’ other win came in the 2017 WPIAL Class 5A semifinals, 35-14.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .