Penn-Trafford ready to make history as underdogs in state championship game

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Thursday, December 9, 2021 | 7:04 PM


No matter what happens Friday, the Penn-Trafford football team has made history.

In the school’s 50th season, the team won its first WPIAL title, played in and won its first PIAA playoff game and now is headed to its first PIAA championship game.

A victory against Imhotep Charter (11-1) in the Class 5A game at 7 p.m. Friday at Hersheypark Stadium would give the Warriors (12-2) another first — a state title.

And while they most likely will be the underdogs against the Philadelphia Public League and District 12 champions, the Warriors are all right with that.

“I love being the underdog,” Penn-Trafford senior running back Cade Yacamelli said. “I love this team. Everybody counts us out each week, and we keep winning. We’re going to be the underdog, and hopefully we’ll get the job done, God willing.”

Yacamelli, a Wisconsin commit, has rushed for 1,766 yards, caught 19 passes for 318 yards and scored 28 touchdowns.

But Penn-Trafford is facing a team that has a very stingy defense and features numerous Division I prospects in defensive end Enai White, linebacker and Penn State commit Keon Wylie, linebacker and Temple commit Khalif Kemp and safety Jamir Reyes.

“They are fantastic and a great football team,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “They have great players at every position. You can’t pinpoint one or two guys.

“They are very fast and physical, and that’s what they’ve been known for, and they are well coached. They are rarely out of position. We haven’t seen them make many mental mistakes, and they don’t take a lot of penalties. They trust what they do and don’t play with any hesitation.”

Still, Ruane said his team is not shying away from the situation.

Penn-Trafford has been the underdog throughout the playoffs and has found ways to win.

The Warriors dominated the second half in wins against Pine-Richland and Moon, and they almost played a perfect game in their dominating 49-14 win over District 3 champion Exeter Township.

Ruane also will open up the playbook and pull out something an opponent hasn’t seen on film.

“We felt we had a good team all year,” Ruane said. “We knew what we could do. Even in the preseason, we felt we’d be good up front and we’d develop everyone else along the way.

“Everyone has improved every week, and that’s no joke. Everyone has gotten better every week. I credit our kids for picking up the mental side of things.”

It’s no secret Penn-Trafford wants to run the ball with Yacamelli or quarterback Carter Green behind its big offensive line. Both have rushed for more than 1,100 yards. Green has also thrown for more than 1,200 yards.

Imhotep’s defensive line is just as big as Penn-Trafford’s front and could present a problem.

Penn-Trafford’s defense, which shut down Exeter’s running game, will be asked for an even better performance this week.

Junior linebacker Daniel Tarabrella, who had 17 tackles against Moon, feels the team is up for the challenge.

“I always dreamed about playing football in December,” Tarabrella said. “We have to play with determination and be physical. We had a great team effort last week. They entire defense worked together. It was great.”

Ruane said he and the team have embraced the challenge ahead of them.

He also appreciates the sacrifices his players and coaches have made. He said the junior varsity players deserve a lot of credit for preparing the varsity at practice.

“This is a unique situation,” Ruane said. “Usually we’re trying to fight for another week in the playoffs. You never want to say this is the final week, but it’s unique that this is the final game.

“So, the old cliche about leaving it on the field is legit, and the players realize that, and they want to end their careers with a great experience.”

A win Friday would cap that experience — and make some more history.

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 pschofield@triblive.com.

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