Penn-Trafford answers bell, beats Gateway for 1st place in Big East Conference

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Friday, October 8, 2021 | 11:14 PM


Jakob Haynes saw an opening and rang Gateway’s bell.

Gateway had just crossed midfield and was facing a 4th and 1 to keep a potential go-ahead drive going.

But the Penn-Trafford junior linebacker knifed through the line and delivered a drive-killing tackle on running back Jaquon Reynolds with 1 minute, 59 seconds left to help seal a 15-10 victory over No. 3 Gateway on Friday night in a Class 5A Big East Conference first-place matchup at Warrior Stadium.

Known for his baseball talents, Haynes said he plays football with his friends for fun. He was a big hit on this homecoming night.

“The B-gap was open, and I just got through and made the tackle,” Haynes said. “I stayed where I was supposed to be.

“We just keep getting better every week.”

Gateway and Penn-Trafford did not play last season, and no champion was crowned in the Big East. They finally faced off for the first time in two years and the team’s 22nd meeting will go down as a hard-hitting defensive gem that saw the No. 5 Warriors even the all-time “Battle For The Bell” series 11-11.

Nathan Schlessinger kicked a pair of field goals — 42 and 36 yards — and senior running back Cade Yacamelli ran for 120 yards on 20 carries, while also making some key tackles late, as the Warriors moved to 5-2 overall and 2-0 in conference.

Gateway, which went to the run late after having some success with the pass because of sophomore quarterback Brad Birch, fell to 4-3, 1-1.

“I was talking with my dad last week and we were saying how the more physical team would probably have the advantage,” said Yacamelli, a Wisconsin commit. “I won this player of the game trophy, but I wish I could give it to every single guy on our defense because they deserve it. I am so proud of them.”

Warriors quarterback Carter Green added 75 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.

“Both teams were very physical,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “They hit a big play and we hit a big play, but neither team gave much else up. Cade ran for some really tough yards. Green did a great job on third down moving the sticks. And Nate (Schlessinger) was unreal.”

Penn-Trafford chewed up most of the third-quarter clock but could only manage a 36-yarder from Schlessinger to take a 15-10 advantage early in the fourth.

Birch, a Jeannette transfer who completed 11 of 15 for 118 yards and a touchdown, delivered a 60-yard punt in the fourth and the Gators forced a punt to take the ball back with 4:07 to play.

Birch ran three times and Reynolds twice on the Gators’ last drive, but the Warriors did not let the Gators get to the perimeter. Haynes swallowed up Reynolds at the Warriors’ 41, and Penn-Trafford ran out the clock.

Birch, a Division I prospect, only threw three times in the second half. He rushed for 41 yards on 12 carries.

“We had a good pass rush and tackled well,” Ruane said. “We made some good tackles in space. I’m ecstatic with the way our defense played.”

Gateway coach Don Holl was not surprised to see physical play from both sides.

“We 100 percent expected it,” Holl said. “It’s always a physical battle. We made some mistakes with penalties and things that hurt us. And we missed some key blocks at key times. We weren’t consistent enough up front. It’s on me. We have to get better.”

The lead changed hands four times in the first half.

Penn-Trafford took a 7-3 lead on a 4-yard run by Green, which followed a 52-yard burst by Yacamelli.

A snap on a punt attempt sailed out of the end zone, and the Warriors had a 9-3 advantage with 7:13 left in the second quarter.

But Gateway responded after forcing a punt. Birch completed passes of 19 and 48 yards to Cincinnati recruit Patrick Body, the second reception a highlight catch by Body, who had four catches for 48 yards.

That set up a touchdown throw to Dallas Harper to put the Gators in front, 10-9, late in the first half.

The teams exchanged fumbles just before the half, and Schlessinger booted a 42-yard field goal to give the Warriors a 12-10 edge at the break.

The Victory Bell tradition began in 1924 when Trafford played Pitcairn. The series continued into the late 1950s before mergers formed Gateway and Penn-Trafford.

The rivalry rekindled in 2008 after the bell was refurbished to ring again.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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