Penn-Trafford pulls away in second half, dusts Connellsville

Friday, October 16, 2020 | 10:56 PM

No. 4 Penn-Trafford, idled by coronavirus-related issues for a week, found itself in a battle Friday with winless Connellsville through one half of a WPIAL Class 5A Big East football game before shaking off the rust and pulling away for a 64-28 thumping of the visiting Falcons.

Ethan Carr passed for 139 yards and three touchdowns — two to Brad Ford — also rushing for two scores and returning an interception for another to lead Penn-Trafford (4-1, 3-0), whose highly anticipated game against No. 2 Gateway a week prior was postponed.

“I won’t make excuses. Credit Connellsville. They came to play, and they had a terrific game plan,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said, referring to the heavily favored Warriors’ surprising 28-28 halftime score against the Falcons, who are coached by former Penn-Trafford star Marko Thomas.

“Credit Marko. He had them ready,” Ruane said. “They’ve scored a lot of points this year. They milked the clock in the first half, and we had barely any possessions.”

The Falcons were averaging 25 points per game.

Ky’ron Craggette rushed for 240 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries but managed only 21 yards in the second half for Connellsville (0-6, 0-3).

“Yeah, we were rusty and had to shake it off,” Ruane said. “But I was really happy with the way we answered the bell at halftime. We played a lot better on both sides of the ball in the second half. It’s a mature group. You really don’t have to say much. They answered the bell. They get it.”

Craggette scored on runs of 42, 63, 14 and 76 yards, all in the first half.

“He’s great. He’s tough. He’s fast,” Ruane said. “When he gets in the open field, he’s gone.”

But Craggette and his teammates found the going much tougher after halftime.

“I’m happy with how we came out and played,” said Thomas, a 1999 graduate of Penn-Trafford, where he played wide receiver before going on to star at then-NAIA Geneva College, which inducted him into its Athletics Hall of Fame.

Penn-Trafford’s offense quickly went to work in the second half.

The defense woke up and did the rest, shutting out Connellsville and Craggette the rest of the way.

Carr scored on a 22-yard touchdown run to put the Warriors in the lead for good, 35-28, and the rout was on.

He passed 32 yards to Ford, also in the third quarter, then the Warriors scored three more times in the fourth on touchdown passes of 32 yards to Ford and 38 to Mason Frye, Cole Darragh’s 35-yard interception return and Nate Frye’s 4-yard run.

Penn-Trafford appeared to take charge after the teams traded touchdowns early, scoring twice as Carr shovel-passed a 7-yard touchdown to Ford, then returned an interception 37 yards for a score to give the Warriors a 21-7 advantage with 11 minutes left in the first half.

But Craggette made sure the Warriors didn’t pull away, scoring a pair of touchdowns on runs of 63 and 14 yards to pull Connellsville even at 21-21.

Both teams again traded touchdowns in a compact time span inside the final minute of the second quarter.

Carr raced 30 yards and leaped into the end zone over several Connellsville defenders to give Penn-Trafford a 28-21 lead, and Craggette burstthrough the middle again en route to a 76-yard touchdown run for Connellsville, again tying the score at 28-28.

Nathan Schlessinger’s 40-yard field-goal attempt for Penn-Trafford, after Connellsville was called for interference at the goal line as time expired in the first half, fell just short.

Penn-Trafford capped a 58-yard drive to start the game with Chase Vecchio’s 8-yard touchdown run.

Just 10 seconds later, Craggette scored his first touchcdown for Connellsville to tie it 7-7.

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