Penn-Trafford headed to Hershey with rout of Exeter Township in PIAA semifinals

Friday, December 3, 2021 | 10:36 PM

WINGATE — Before Friday’s PIAA Class 5A semifinal, Exeter Township football players took the field during pregame warm-up yelling and screaming.

At the other end, Penn-Trafford was quietly getting ready.

“We certainly had a business-type demeanor before the game,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “That’s our kids. They were focused on the task at hand. They knew it was a big night, and they needed to take care of business.”

And that’s exactly what they did.

After capturing its first WPIAL title a week ago, Penn-Trafford dismantled District 3 champion Exeter Township by winning all three phases of the game and built on its newfound history.

A 24-point second quarter helped the Warriors roll 49-14,at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Field and sent them to the PIAA Class 5A championship game Dec. 10 at Hersheypark Stadium. P-T (12-2) will face Imhotep Charter, which defeated Strath Haven, 36-0.

Standout running back Cade Yacamelli rushed for three touchdowns. He scored a fourth on a pass and rushed for 142 yards. He had touchdown runs of 3, 75 and 4 yards.

Penn-Trafford’s defense made Exeter Township one dimensional. The Eagles (10-4) came into the game averaging 273.5 yards a game in the District 3 playoffs. Running back Eric Nangle had gained 919 yards. The Warriors held the Eagles to 66 yards on the ground, and Nangle finished with 51.

Penn-Trafford outrushed Exeter, 260-66.

The Warriors also intercepted Exeter quarterback Colin Payne four times — once each by Yacamelli, Jacob Otto, Seth Dunlap and Liam Hileman.

The special teams completed the dominance. Nathan Schlessinger kicked two field goals (38 and 34 yards) and had four touchbacks, and Dunlap ran 65 yards on a fake punt.

Penn-Trafford grabbed a 3-0 lead on its first possession on a 38-yard field goal by Schlessinger. The score was set up by a 73-yard kickoff return by Otto.

Exeter, after stopping the Warriors on fourth-and-1 at the Penn-Trafford 45, took a 7-3 lead when quarterback Colin Payne connected on a 24-yard touchdown pass to Penn State commit Joey Schlaffer.

The score was set up by a 19-yard run by Nangle. It was only time Nangle got loose against the Penn-Trafford defense in the first half. He was held to 24 yards on eight carries in the half.

Then the Warriors took over, scoring 24 points in the second quarter to build a 27-7 lead at halftime.

A 25-yard run by Yacamelli and a clutch fourth-down catch by Otto for a first down set up a Carter Green-to-Conlan Greene touchdown pass from the Exeter 5 for a 10-7 lead.

“They had a quick start with the touchdown pass, and I thought we responded tremendously with the following drive,” Ruane said. “Jacob made a huge catch on the drive.”

The Warriors defense set up the next score as Hileman returned an interception 27 yards to the Exeter 22. Yacamelli scored four plays later from the Exeter 3 to push the lead to 17-7.

“It was probably the play of the game,” Exeter coach Matt Bauer said. “We thought the wheel route was open, and the kid made a great interception. It turned the momentum, and we never recovered.

“Their defensive line also did a great job stopping our running game. They took away the inside and forced us to bounce it out. We had to do a better job protecting the football.”

It took the Warriors one play to add to their lead. It was Yacamelli, on a counter, racing 75 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-7.

“Me and Carter get a lot of the credit, but there are heroes on this team that don’t get the credit,” Yacamelli said. “I love my team.”

Exeter tried cut into the Penn-Trafford lead later in the quarter by driving to the Warriors’ 35, but Dunlap ended the threat when he picked off a Payne pass and raced 48 yards to the Exeter 22.

Schlessinger booted a 34-yard field goal on the final play of the half to make it 27-7.

Yacamelli rushed for 135 yards on 12 carries in the first half, and Greene was a perfect 5 for 5 for 37 yards.

Payne was 8 of 14 for 98 yards and a touchdown. He finished 17 for 27 for 197 yards and four interceptions.

“The guys up front were changing the line of scrimmage,” Ruane said. “They played their butts off. We had big-time pass pressure.

“I thought two big plays in the game were when we knocked down a deep pass and then intercepted another. It took away their deep threat.”

Exeter started the second half with a nice drive that stalled at the Penn-Trafford 17. They then got the ball back at the Penn-Trafford 41, but on first down, Otto stepped in front of pass intended for Schlaffer to end the threat.

Needing a spark on offense, Ruane called for a fake punt, and Dunlap raced 65 yards to the Exeter 4. A play later, Yacamelli scored to make it 35-7.

Yacamelli later caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Green, and Ian Demeri finished the scoring after Greene recovered a fumble with a 17-yard score.

“We’re excited as heck about next week, and we know we’re playing an excellent team,” Ruane said. “We have a lot of work to do, and we’re definitely excited about the opportunity.”

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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