Tarabrella boots only points of game as Penn-Trafford edges rival Norwin

Friday, August 25, 2017 | 10:57 PM

Norwin senior tailback Tevin Thrift had just busted a 39-yard run into Penn-Trafford territory late in the fourth quarter of a three-point game.

The Knights had hope.

But Penn-Trafford wasn't having it.

The Warriors flexed their muscles behind a strong defensive line, with seniors Logan Hawkins and Cameron Elma recording sacks to squelch the Knights' last decent scoring chance and seal a 3-0 victory Friday night at Norwin Stadium.

Week Zero was about a big zero for the Warriors' defense: a season-opening shutout.

Akron recruit Hawkins' sack drove Norwin back 7 yards and Elma's was for minus-13 yards to force a fourth-and-31 and a punt. It was ground-and-pound football from there for the Class 5A No. 3 Warriors, who rushed 47 times for 246 yards and produced two 100-yard rushers.

Quarterback Cam Laffoon ran for 128 yards on 20 attempts, and senior teammate John Gay IV added 110 yards on 23 carries.

The only points in a nip-and-tuck rivalry game came on a 20-yard field goal by Warriors' senior kicker Nick Tarabrella with five minutes to go in the third quarter.

“This game is all a credit to our defense,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “Our defensive line was the difference, and the backers played well behind them. Total team defense. It was ugly and I'm an offensive guy so I might be sick for a while, but we got the win.”

Penn-Trafford almost gave the ball back with 53 seconds left on an apparent fumble recovery by Norwin's Jake Smetak, but the Warriors retained possession and held on.

“Our defense was able to hold them to zero so we only had to score three points to win,” said Laffoon, who also passed for 56 yards. “Once we got ahead we wanted to possess the ball and run the clock out. Credit our offensive line tonight, too. Sometimes it's dirty and ugly, but a win is a win.”

The Warriors ran 10 straight times on their first drive of the second half and had a pass broken up on third-and-goal. Tarabrella, who missed a 34-yard try in the first half, booted a low attempt through for a 3-0 lead.

“We had some opportunities but didn't finish,” Ruane said. “Our defense bailed us out a lot tonight.”

Class 6A Norwin did very little offensively in the second half, getting into Warriors' territory only once.

“They made some plays on the defensive line, up front, and we didn't make enough plays there,” Norwin coach Dave Brozeski said. “Every game comes down to the trenches. I am proud of the way our guys played, but we have to make plays when we have opportunities.”

A scoreless first half was more about what didn't happen as both teams had scoring chances.

After Norwin sophomore quarterback Jack Salopek was intercepted on his first pass attempt of the season — by junior Dominic Rosso — P-T gave it right back.

Laffoon dropped back and tossed a short pass to sophomore Caleb Lisbon. But the ball was tipped and fell into the waiting arms of Norwin junior safety Jayvon Thrift in the end zone. Thrift, a Division I prospect with offers from Pitt and West Virginia and Syracuse, returned it to his own 38, and Norwin drove to the Warriors' 27 late in the opening quarter.

Salopek appeared to deliver a perfect strike to Dylan Kantz for a touchdown, but a formation penalty negated the fourth-down play and erased Norwin's best chance at the end zone.

“When we'd take a step forward, we'd take two steps back,” Brozeski said. “This game came down to four or five critical plays.”

After getting pinned by a Zeke Houser punt, Penn-Trafford went on a 14-play drive from the Norwin 3, with a 20-yard pass play to Dimitri George and a 12-yarder to Jake Prady moving the Warriors into the red zone.

Tarabrella's 34-yard field goal try missed, and it remained 0-0 at halftime.

“We were happy to finish the game and get it done,” Gay said. “We played through a lot of adversity. This is a good rivalry; We all had respect for each other after the game.”

Tevin Thrift led Norwin with 67 yards rushing. Salopek threw for 64 yards.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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