Playoffs begin for real for reigning WPIAL champion Penn-Trafford, Westmoreland County teams

Saturday, October 29, 2022 | 7:49 PM

The WPIAL released the pairings for the upcoming football playoffs Saturday, but the playoffs had already started for Penn-Trafford with its huge win against Franklin Regional on Friday.

The Warriors (6-4) rallied late to defeat Franklin Regional, 28-21, in overtime in a must-win game.

Now the real playoffs begin Friday and the reigning WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A champs will begin defense of their title at No. 2 Pine-Richland (7-3). The Rams have been one of the WPIAL’s hottest teams, winning six consecutive games after starting the season 1-3.

“We kind of figured we’d get Pine-Richland,” Ruane said. “Just getting into the playoffs after all the adversity we faced during the season is huge.

“We played with a lot of urgency against Franklin Regional. The difference now is everyone has to play with a sense of urgency. You can’t play nervous.”

Penn-Trafford has been dealing with injuries to key players. Jake Otto and four-year starter Josh Huffman are out for the season, while running back Owen Demari, quarterback Tommy Kalkstein and linebacker Daniel Tarabrella have missed games. Demari, Kalkstein and Tarabrella played big roles in the win against the Panthers.

The Warriors defeated Pine-Richland in the 2021 semifinals, 24-6.

“Pine-Richland is well-coached and has been playing well down the stretch,” Ruane said. “We’ve seen them a few times on film.

“We’re happy to make the playoffs, but we’re not satisfied. We’ll have to play a flawless game to defeat them.”

Franklin Regional (7-3) received the third seed behind No. 1 Bethel Park and No. 2 Pine-Richland. The Panthers play host to No. 6 Woodland Hills (5-5), which edged Penn Hills, 7-3, to qualify for the tournament.

“There are a couple good teams not in the tournament that probably could make a run,” Ruane said.

Franklin Regional, champion of the Big East Conference, must rebound after its third overtime loss of the season.

Panthers coach Lance Getsy said he is confident his team will bounce back after the tough loss.

“I’m confident this team will play hard,” Getsy said. “We just have to fix a couple things and not turn the ball over.”

Latrobe first-year coach Ron Prady has the Wildcats back in the playoffs for the first time since 2019 when they fell to Penn Hills, 56-17. They will meet Class 4A No. 6 seed Highlands (9-1).

Prady brings playoff success as an assistant coach with Ruane at Penn-Trafford.

“I learned from John that you pretty much keep the same routine,” Prady said. “Sure the intensity increases, but you prepare the same way every week.

“I don’t know much yet about Highlands. I’ll learn a lot between now and Monday.”

Aliquippa is the top seed in Class 4A followed by Central Valley, Thomas Jefferson, Armstrong and McKeesport.

Belle Vernon’s huge win against Elizabeth Forward in the WPIAL Class 3A Interstate Conference first-place battle vaulted the Leopards to the No. 1 seed over Avonworth. Elizabeth Forward, which was ranked No. 1 heading into Friday, fell to No. 3. Freeport is seeded No. 4.

The Leopards (7-2) drew a first-round bye and will face the winner of the East Allegheny (7-3) at Mt. Pleasant (6-4) game on Nov. 11.

“The WPIAL must have looked at our past success and strength of schedule to award us the No. 1 seed,” Belle Vernon coach Matt Humbert said. “We deserve it. Getting a bye will help us heal some bumps and we’ll be able to get a few key players back.”

Southmoreland (4-6), which has now qualified for the playoffs three of the past four years, will travel to West Mifflin (5-5) on Friday.

Ligonier Valley (7-3) will be hosting Western Beaver (7-3) in Class 2A, but not at Weller Field. The game will be played at Offutt Field in Greensburg. It is the second time the Rams have made the WPIAL playoffs.

Steel Valley was seeded No. 1 in Class 2A followed by Beaver Falls, Sto-Rox, Neshannock and Serra Catholic.

Greensburg Central Catholic coach Marko Thomas said he wasn’t surprised that his Centurions were seeded No. 3 behind Bishop Canevin and Laurel.

“We expected that,” Thomas said. “We also heard that Rochester might be our opponent.”

The Centurions (8-2) will face the Rams (7-3) at Hempfield’s Bill Abraham Field at Spartan Stadium.

Monessen (6-4) is also in the Class A playoffs and will travel to No. 6 Fort Cherry (7-3), while Jeannette (3-7) will face the top seed, Bishop Canevin (9-1), at Peters Township.

All games Friday begin at 7 p.m.

Playoff history

Belle Vernon: WPIAL playoff record: 21-30. WPIAL Championship: 1995. Last playoff game: 2021 vs. Aliquippa.

Franklin Regional: WPIAL playoff record: 20-20. WPIAL Championship: 2005. Last playoff game: 2021 vs. Penn Hills.

Latrobe: WPIAL playoff record: 1-10. WPIAL Championship: 1968. Last playoff game: 2019 vs. Penn Hills.

Ligonier Valley: WPIAL playoff record: 0-1. WPIAL Championships: 0. Last playoff game: 2021 vs. South Side Beaver.

Greensburg Central Catholic: WPIAL playoff record: 19-22. WPIAL Championship: 2009. Last playoff game: 2021 vs. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

Jeannette: WPIAL playoff record: 57-33-1. WPIAL Championships: 1932, 1939, 1956, 1971, 1981, 1983, 2006, 2007, 2017 and 2020. Last playoff game: 2020 vs. Clairton.

Monessen: WPIAL playoff record: 19-32-1. WPIAL Championships: 1930 and 1961. Last playoff game: 2021 vs. Cornell.

Mt. Pleasant: WPIAL playoff record: 17-26. WPIAL Championships: 1983 and 1986. Last playoff game: 2021 vs. Avonworth.

Penn-Trafford: WPIAL playoff record: 24-29. WPIAL Championship: 2021. Last playoff game: 2021 vs. Moon.

Southmoreland: WPIAL playoff record: 0-3. WPIAL Championships: 0. Last playoff game: 2021 vs. East Allegheny.

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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