Penn-Trafford went into PIAA Class 5A championship with confidence

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Saturday, December 11, 2021 | 6:10 PM


HERSHEY — It’s unsure how much sleep the Penn-Trafford football team got Friday night after its stunning 17-14 overtime win against Imhotep Charter.

But there is a good chance it was very little.

“I’m staying up all night. I don’t care,” senior running back Cade Yacamelli said. “I’m going to celebrate with my teammates.”

And why not? The Warriors made history, capping an almost perfect season by winning their first PIAA title in the 50th year of the school’s existence.

The Warriors were not intimidated by Class 5A power Imhotep Charter, a team with at least six Division I prospects. They went toe-to-toe in a game many observers felt was one of the best PIAA championship games in a long time.

“We had confidence from the start,” Yacamelli said. “We always have confidence. Everybody says we’re the underdog, and everyone said we’re going to lose.

“Guess what, we freaking win. That’s what we do, and that’s what we’re always going to do, and that’s what we planned to do and that is what we did.”

Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said during preparation for the game he wanted to see how Imhotep Charter would adjust to his different formations.

He also had a few tricks up his sleeve.

“In the film I saw, a lot of teams just lined up against them,” Ruane said. “They’re a great football team. We had to do some different things.”

One came on the tying score when tight end Conlan Greene lined up at quarterback and ran a jump pass. Greene hit fellow tight end Jack Jollie for the score.

“We rep that in practice all the time for situations like this,” Greene said. “You see how it works. This is a surreal feeling. I’m just going to cherish it with my boys.”

Greene, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound junior, was a key blocker on short-yardage runs throughout the season.

“The other wrinkle I did was to have Cade go in motion,” Ruane said. “It worked perfectly.”

In overtime, Ruane showed confidence in his defense to make a stop after Nathan Schlessinger booted a 24-yard field goal for the lead.

Schlessinger said he was ready for the kick.

“I’m on the top of the world right now,” Schlessinger said. “I was hoping we’d get the touchdown. It would give us a better chance at winning, but ultimately, at the same time, if I get a chance, I’m drilling it.”

And what were his thoughts about the defense coming up with a stop?

“I have full faith in my teammates,” he said. “They’ve been lights out all season, and Friday was no different.”

Penn-Trafford senior captain Declan Ochendowski added: “This could not be any better. This is everything I could ever dream of and everything you ever work for. This is the best way it could end, best feeling ever.”

So what gave Penn-Trafford the feeling it would win?

“We were able to keep our mindset coming off our recent success,” he said. “It’s easy to get a big head and easy to think you’re something you’re not. We stayed humble, and we just worked and worked. No one is more deserving on this team than my brothers. We did everything we could.”

And Yacamelli said the ultimate reason Penn-Trafford was the third Westmoreland County team to win a PIAA title was Ruane.

“He’s almost like a second father,” Yacamelli said. “You’re talking about a guy who not only makes you a great football player, he makes you a great person. He’s everything to this program. Without him, we’re not even close to making it this far.”

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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