Penn-Trafford earns Class 5A Big East title with win against Franklin Regional

Friday, October 25, 2019 | 11:12 PM

Penn-Trafford football coach John Ruane said his team would have to earn every yard against physical Franklin Regional.

That statement was as prophetic as it was accurate.

The top-ranked Warriors took a while to gain command in Murrysville on Friday night, but they finally gained separation late in the second half to down the Panthers, 21-0, in the Class 5A Big East finale at Panther Stadium.

“I think the story of the night was our defense,” Ruane said. “We have played great all year on defense. We kept them out of the red zone. We covered well. We tackled very well, gang-tackled quite a bit, and we matched their physicality.”

The win clinched the Warriors’ first outright conference title since 2015. It was the 300th victory in Penn-Trafford football history, and it came in the Warriors’ 500th game.

Penn-Trafford (9-1, 6-0) likely will be the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL playoffs, which start next Friday.

The WPIAL pairings meeting will be Monday in Green Tree.

Franklin Regional (4-4, 3-3) will be the fourth-place team from the conference and will make its 16th straight appearance in the tournament. The Panthers only crossed midfield twice, just before the half and on their final drive late.

“John (Ruane) is one heck of an offensive coach, and Ethan (Carr) is one heck of an athlete,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. “I am proud of our defense and how it rallied. Penn-Trafford is a tremendous team with a lot of ability and talent. Our offense was non-existent tonight.”

It wasn’t until Carr finally broke loose — on a quarterback keeper — that the Warriors could slice through the tension of a tight test.

Carr cut inside and raced 69 yards for a touchdown with 7 minutes, 55 seconds to play to put the Warriors ahead 21-0.

It was the only big play they could muster.

Carr scored right after a defensive holding call on a punt that gave Penn-Trafford a first down. The call was made late, after the ball appeared to change sides.

Franklin Regional blitzed the Warriors all night and held them to their lowest point total of the season. Penn-Trafford, though, took pride in its first shutout of the year.

“Ethan is there for a spark,” Ruane said. “He is an awesome football player. He has proved that all season long. You can put him anywhere, and he is going to be effective. He is one of the top players in the WPIAL.”

Not that the win fully passed the eye test of the coaches.

Ruane was not pleased with his team’s nine penalties, and he said the Warriors should have changed up schemes offensively earlier in the game.

“Sluggish penalties, behind the sticks, not coming off the football,” Ruane said. “We made a lot of mistakes. Franklin is a good, physical team, but I think a lot of that was self-inflicted … that’s on me. We have to be able to run the football a lot better in the playoffs.”

Carr played a number of snaps at quarterback. He completed three passes for 75 yards, including a touchdown to Noah Allen, and had seven receptions for 65 yards. He added 86 yards rushing and the touchdown.

Starter Gabe Dunlap threw for 111 yards (10 of 12) and ran for 43 and a score for the Warriors.

“We needed a big play,” Carr said. “I needed to redeem myself. I dropped two interceptions. It doesn’t who make the play, as long as we get the job done, that’s all that matters.”

Attention shifted from the game to Franklin Regional junior Mario Sarnic at the end of the first half. Sarnic injured his leg on the last play of the first half and was attended to by medical personnel for about 30 minutes — nobody in a hushed crowd left their seats — before he was taken off the field on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance.

Botta said Sarnic was to have surgery Friday night. Sarnic also wrestles for Franklin Regional.

“It was tough to see, you hate to see that,” Botta said. “He is one of our best blockers and receivers. Our kids wanted to play for him and they believed in themselves.”

Franklin Regional fumbled on the play in which Sarnic was hurt but Colton Johns recovered. Sarnic appeared to injure his leg near the end of the play as Johns was tackled.

Carr said he hoped Sarnic was alright.

“We went to day care together,” he said. “We’re friends.”

Penn-Trafford took a precarious 14-0 lead into halftime thanks to a trick play. Carr threw an option pass to Noah Allen for a 27-yard score on the first drive of the night, and Dunlap ran in from the 6 with 2:53 left in the second quarter.

The key play on the second scoring drive was a 34-yard pass from Dunlap to Carr.

Allen also had an interception.

Defense was the order of the day in the first half as Franklin Regional punted three times, and Penn-Trafford kicked it away twice.

“You have to play mistake-free against a team that good,” Botta said. “We had too many negative plays.”

Franklin Regional had just 62 yards rushing.

Penn-Trafford lineman Josh Cheplick appeared to injure his ankle in the final seconds and was helped off the field. Ruane did not think it looked serious.

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

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