Penn-Trafford, Exeter Township enter uncharted waters in PIAA semifinals

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Wednesday, December 1, 2021 | 7:07 PM


Penn-Trafford football historian Rush Pedder wrote a book about the past 50 years of the program. Now, he has some interesting new chapters to start another.

After winning the school’s first WPIAL football title in the 50th year of the school, the Warriors enter uncharted waters when they face Exeter Township in the PIAA Class 5A semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Bald Eagle Area High School in Wingate.

It will be a new experience for the players and coach John Ruane. The Warriors (11-2), who defeated Moon, 24-21, for their first WPIAL title Saturday, are one win away from earning a trip to Hersheypark Stadium to play in the state finals.

It’s also a new experience for Exeter and its coach, Matt Bauer.

“I didn’t know what to expect at practice on Monday,” Ruane said. “But the players were focused. It’s one of the best practices we’ve had all season.”

Penn-Trafford will face a surprise team from District 3 in Exeter, which sent shockwaves across the state with its 31-28 victory against No. 1-ranked Governor Mifflin, a team that defeated them earlier in the season 54-21.

“It was doubly sweet,” Bauer said. “Winning out first district title and doing it by defeating Governor Mifflin. But I had to knock them down a peg this week because we’ll be facing a huge challenge from Penn-Trafford.”

The Eagles (10-3) did it by keeping the ball away from Governor Mifflin’s explosive offense and running back Nick Singleton. Exeter senior running back Eric Nangle, who carried the ball 41 times and gained 225 yards, and a strong effort from the offensive line were the reasons for the upset.

Penn State commit Joey Schlaffer, a 6-foot-6 junior wide receiver, caught two touchdown passes in the win. He’s the leading receiver with 41 catches for 728 yards and eight touchdowns.

“There are four teams left standing to this point; they are pretty darn good,” Ruane said. “They have a terrific offense, a really fast running back that breaks a ton of tackles, and they can throw it. They have a big time prospect at receiver.

“They’re multiple on defense, they are very physical and quick off the ball. They had a very impressive win against a great Governor Mifflin team. They seem to be peaking at the right time.”

The teams are similar in many ways. Both were able to win their first district titles and both are playing well.

Penn-Trafford has won nine consecutive games, and Exeter has won six in a row since losing to Governor Mifflin on Oct. 8.

Bauer said after the Eagles’ second loss of the season, the seniors called a meeting and banned together.

“They realized this could be a special season,” Bauer said. “They worked harder in practice, and we’ve gotten better every day.”

Nangle has rushed for 1,769 yards and 21 touchdowns. Tyler Yocam, the Berks County Linebacker of the Year, has rushed for 469 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Quarterback Colin Payne has completed 118 of 199 passes for 2,163 yards and 22 touchdowns. J.R. Strauss is also a big target for Payne, catching 27 passes for 455 yards and seven touchdowns.

Exeter averages 39.69 points per game and allows 21. Penn-Trafford averages 32.5 points and allows 12.8.

Penn-Trafford used big plays to defeat Moon.

Running back Cade Yacamelli, a Wisconsin commit, scored on a run of 53 yards and caught a 92-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Carter Green. Yacamelli rushed for 136 yards and now has rushed for 1,634 yards and 20 touchdowns. He’s caught 15 passes for 283 yards and four scores.

Green has rushed for 1,106 yards and 15 touchdowns. He scored the game-winning touchdown on a 29-yard run against Moon. He’s completed 71 of 123 passes for 1,125 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Defensively, Daniel Tarabrella had a huge game against Moon with 17.5 tackles, two tackles for losses, a sack and a fumble recovery. Seth Dunlap had 10 tackles and Conlan Greene had six tackles and two sacks.

“Stats don’t show everything,” Bauer said. “Penn-Trafford is very good, big and it’s going to be a stern test for us.”

PIAA Class 5A semifinals

Exeter Township (10-3) vs. Penn-Trafford (11-2)

7 p.m. Friday at Bald Eagle Area High School, Wingate

Last week: Exeter 31, Governor Mifflin 28; Penn-Trafford 24, Moon 21

Winner plays: Winner of Imhotep Charter (10-1) and Strath Haven (13-1) in PIAA finals Dec. 10 at Hersheypark Stadium

Players to watch

Exeter: RB Eric Nangle, 1,769 rushing yards, 21 TDs; QB Colin Payne, 118 of 199, 2,163 yards, 22 TDs; WR Joey Schaffler, 41 catches for 728 yards, 8 TDs

Penn-Trafford: RB Cade Yacamelli, 1,634 rushing yards, 20 TDs, 15 catches, 283 yards, 4 TDs; QB Carter Green, 1,106 rushing yards, 15 TDs and 71 of 123, 1,125 yards, 10 TDs; WR Tommy Kalkstein, 12 catches for 264 yards, 3 TDs

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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