Penn-Trafford ready to ride Carr toward postseason

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Thursday, September 3, 2020 | 10:38 PM


Skill, speed, depth and potential.

All typical traits of a Penn-Trafford football team heading into a new season.

Seemingly, every season.

Coach John Ruane rarely has a void to fill as he and his staff groom players each year to replace current standouts — a focus on today with an eye toward the future.

As one steps out, another steps in.

But Ruane did have a question mark to tangle with during an uncertain and helter-skelter offseason that lived in the shadow of the coronavirus.

Skill once again abounds with do-it-all senior Ethan Carr taking over at quarterback and numerous backs and receivers set to join him, but the question is, who is going to block for them?

“The worst part about the offseason is that we lost all that weight-room time,” Ruane said. “Our guys stayed in shape, which is great, but we have some holes to fill and we’re still deciding who will fill them.”

Senior Rob Bartrum (6-5, 290) is a key returning starter up front, but Ruane said a large group is competing to play alongside him.

“A slew of guys, seven or eight,” he said.

Among them: seniors Joey Spadaro, Austin Lankey and Tannor Eikey, juniors Declan Ochendowski and Garrett Moorhead and sophomore Joe Enick.

Carr is the no-doubt centerpiece of the offense. He played five positions last season to help the Warriors garner the top seed in WPIAL Class 5A.

The Villanova recruit who will replace dual-threat standout Gabe Dunlap (2,927 all-purpose yards) under center led the team with 42 catches for 764 yards and 10 touchdowns — he will play receiver in college — and also ran for 323 yards and eight TDs and threw for 198 yards.

“Ethan is a quarterback, so it’s not like we’re converting him from wide receiver,” Ruane said. “He is just moving back to QB. He has a big-time arm, and we plan to show that. He will run the ball, too. The cerebral part for him is very high.”

Senior Brad Ford, who was thrust into action last year when two top running backs were injured (Caleb Lisbon and Sam Fanelli), should be a key rusher. He ran for 302 yards and four touchdowns on 65 carries, the second-most totes on the team.

Athletic junior Cade Yacamelli ran for 209 yards and will be another backfield weapon, along with senior Nate Frye.

“Those are three varsity-tested guys,” Ruane said. “We want to get all of them on the field, as rushers or receivers.”

Other key pass-catching threats are junior Chase Vecchio, senior Mason Frye and senior Chris Popovich.

The Warriors often line up in four-receiver sets, so Carr could turn to a vertical passing attack with short throws to get athletes into open space.

The Frye brothers, who combined for 141 tackles and have dual offers from Butler and Valparaiso, and Ford will drive the defensive secondary. Carr will occupy a hybrid linebacker spot, and senior Cole Darragh returns to play linebacker after missing time with an injury.

Vecchio had 53 tackles.

Carr said the Warriors are not short on skill or experience.

“We are starting to get the chemistry back up after the hiatus,” he said. “Our expectations, just like every year, are to win a championship.”

Also look for contributions from senior Thomas Wilkie and juniors Jack Jollie and Ian Demari.

Junior Nathan Schlessinger could be the top kicker in the conference, and sophomore Josh Huffman will punt again.

Ruane called Class 5A “ridiculously difficult on paper” and expects big things from Upper St. Clair, Peters Township, Gateway, Woodland Hills and Pine-Richland.

Schedule

Coach: John Ruane

2019 record: 11-2, 6-0 in Class 5A Big East Conference

All-time record: 301-191-10

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, Latrobe*, 7:30

9.18, at Peters Township, 7

9.25, Shaler, 7:30

10.2, Woodland Hills*, 7:30

10.9, at Gateway*, 7

10.16, Connellsville*, 7:30

10.23, at Franklin Regional*, 7

*Class 5A Big East Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Gabe Dunlap*

105-178, 1,763 yards, 12 TDs

Receiving: Ethan Carr

42-764 yards, 10 TDs

Rushing: Dunlap*

160-1,164 yards, 12 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• Penn-Trafford has lost to Peters Township in the WPIAL playoffs the last two seasons with both games at West Mifflin. Last year, the final was 28-10 in the semifinals. The teams had been scheduled to play a nonconference game in Week 3.

• The Warriors averaged 36 points and 365.9 yards last season.

• The program topped the 300-win mark last season (301-191-10).

• Just twice since 2000 has Penn-Trafford missed the WPIAL playoffs.

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

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