Penn-Trafford coaches pleased with offseason improvement at skill positions

Sunday, July 7, 2024 | 12:01 AM

Penn-Trafford football coach John Ruane gave his squad a break from summer workouts over the Fourth of July holiday.

It was a deserved rest for a team that has worked hard to improve on its disappointing 2023 record of 5-6 overall, which included a WPIAL Class 5A playoff loss to Penn Hills.

Injuries and inexperience at the skill positions slowed the Warriors.

Carmen Metcalfe was the lone returning wide receiver, and juniors Jonny Lovre and Derek Carr were set to share duties at quarterback.

But the quarterback plan was short-lived as Carr was lost for the season in the Week Zero game against Canon-McMillan after he ran six times for 31 yards.

Lovre was pressed into more playing time and responded with a decent season, completing 102 of 193 passes for 1,319 yards and eight touchdowns. But he also threw 13 interceptions.

“Turnovers are huge in a game,” Lovre said. “It can be the deciding factor in games, and I threw too many. I have to protect the ball better.”

Lovre will be sharing the load behind center with Carr, who has recovered from the injury.

“Derek and I are best friends and competing against each other all the time, so we’ve been battling each other every day,” Lovre said. “Coach Ruane likes to use a two-quarterback system.

“My summer has gone well between football, baseball and golf. The team has made a lot of strides, especially in the skill positions. We’re looking a lot better.”

Ruane said the team is having a good summer and showing improvement.

“Last year we were inexperienced at the skill positions,” Ruane said. “But as the season went on, that group improved a lot. Now it’s the strength of the season. Jonny is more experienced and has made great strides.

“The best part of the summer is the internal camaraderie of the team. We’re getting better at what we need to do.”

Ruane said he likes how Lovre and Carr are meshing with the receivers.

“They have a friendly competition,” Ruane said. “I’m comfortable with both. It’s always good to have competition at that position. Derek will definitely play.”

The wide receiver group is led by sophomore Nick Ponko, who caught 18 passes for 218 yards as a freshman. Senior Jack Weishaar returns after snagging 11 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. Rounding out the unit is senior Jessie Lisbon, who had three catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns, and junior Tyler Boss, who had one catch for 9 yards.

“Tyler and Jessie have stepped up their game,” Lovre said. “We’re coming to together.”

Penn-Trafford’s offense runs best when there is a balance between the running and passing game.

The Warriors’ running game features a tandem of senior Tasso Whipple and sophomore Ben Grabowski. The duo combined to rush for more than 2,100 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2023.

Whipple rushed for 1,388 yards and 14 touchdowns and Grabowski gained 779 yards and had 10 scores. Whipple also caught 19 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns.

Ruane said opponents should not overlook senior Joe Jackson this season, as well.

“Joe is more of a downhill runner,” Ruane said. “He’ll be in the mix this season.”

The season kicks off Aug. 23 against rival Norwin.

Ruane hopes the productive summer will carry over to the fall when the Warriors can display their offseason improvements and challenge for another WPIAL title. The first came when these seniors were freshmen.

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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