Penn-Trafford, Belle Vernon get home games for WPIAL football playoffs

Saturday, October 24, 2020 | 7:55 PM

When the WPIAL announced higher-seeded teams will get to play at home through the semifinals of the football playoffs, a number of coaches had reason to smile.

Penn-Trafford was one of them.

The WPIAL announced playoff pairings Saturday night, and Penn-Trafford (5-1, 4-0) got a home game after finishing first in the Class 5A Big East Conference. The fourth-seeded Warriors will host No. 5 Upper St. Clair (5-2) at 7 p.m. Friday.

The top two teams in the three 5A conferences made the playoffs, along with two wild-card teams.

The Warriors dumped Franklin Regional Friday night, 56-7, to finish first in the conference by a half game over Gateway (4-0, 3-0), a team they didn’t get to play because of covid-19 interference.

There aren’t many teams that have been as dominant as Penn-Trafford at home. Since 2013, the Warriors are 42-1 in Harrison City.

They have won 22 straight at Warrior Stadium.

“We like playing at home,” coach John Ruane said. “It would be nice to be at home next week. Remember, we’re starting in the quarterfinals, so there isn’t really a first round.”

Senior quarterback Ethan Carr said, “It’s a pride thing. We love it at home.”

Belle Vernon (5-1, 5-1) finished second in the Class 4A Big Eight Conference and also got a home game. The Leopards, seeded fourth, will host No. 5 Chartiers Valley at 7 p.m. Friday.

Tough break

Franklin Regional had its 16-year playoff streak come to an end Friday night. The Panthers have been a model of consistency under coach Greg Botta, who was disappointed after a loss to Penn-Trafford but is considering the circumstances surrounding this covid-19-damaged season.

“Any other year we make the playoffs,” Botta said. “It’s a year unlike any other. People wearing masks and all of that. It’s just all different. I never thought we’d get through seven games.”

One has to wonder if Botta will come back for a 28th season. He has hinted about retirement this year and last.

“I’ll make a decision in January,” said Botta, who has 177 career wins. “I have family all out of state. I have a new grandson I haven’t even seen yet, and he was born in June. People don’t realize the time we give up as coaches.”

Botta started out coaching at Franklin Regional in 1992 as a defensive coordinator.

Ram tough

Ligonier Valley won a shootout Friday night over Shady Side Academy, 53-48. The wild victory kept an impressive streak alive for the home-standing Rams at Weller Field.

They have not lost there since 2015, a streak 30 straight victories, including the playoffs.

The Rams (4-3), back in the WPIAL this year after 50 years in District 6, also secured six straight winning seasons, a program record.

Coach Roger Beitel and JD Jones has been tied with five straight winning years.

We take a lot of pride playing for our town,” Beitel said. “Although it doesn’t come close to a modern facility, it’s is ours, and we take pride in defending it.”

Haden Sierocky had a career game Friday for the Rams with 211 yards and six touchdowns.

Another close one

Latrobe (2-4, 1-3) gave another favored opponent all it could handle Friday night.

The Wildcats took Woodland Hills (5-2, 3-2) to the brink in a 34-31 Big East loss as Dylan Gustafon ran for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Latrobe took a 24-20 lead into halftime.

Quarterback Landan Carns also ran for two scores.

The Wildcats nearly upset then-No. 5 Upper St. Clair earlier this season, losing 52-44 in a nonconference game.

Latrobe honored the late Jerry Ferraro, a history teacher and announcer who died Tuesday.

Derry done

A late-season covid-19 quarantine wiped out Derry’s last two games, which means the Trojans’ season is over.

The plan was to make up last week’s postponed game against Burrell next Friday. But with quarantine time getting extended at Derry, that game had to be canceled.

Derry finished with a 2-3 record under first-year coach Vince Skillings, who never imagined a debut season like this one.

The end of the road also came quickly for Hempfield, which also canceled its last two games over covid-19 cases.

Wehner throws TD

Freshman Payton Wehner, a quarterback at Central Catholic who transferred from Norwin, threw his first varsity touchdown pass in the Vikings’ 49-6 win at Baldwin. Wehner’s 48-yard strike went to Sean Farrell in the fourth quarter.

Piscar offered

Jeannette’s Kaelan Piscar received his first NCAA Division I-FCS scholarship offer, from St. Francis (Pa.).

The 6-foot, 215-pound senior plays wide receiver and middle linebacker. Heading into Friday night’s regular-season finale, he had 12 catches for 170 yards and 2 TDs this season.

On defense, “Spanky” had two interceptions, including one for a TD.

Jeannette had 16 interceptions as a team — four picks-6s.

Jayhawks alum Gio Vonne Sanders is a redshirt junior defensive back at St. Francis.

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

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