Trib HSSN Football Player of the Week for 2021 Week 13
Sunday, November 28, 2021 | 7:49 PM
Penn-Trafford started as hot as the weather in its much anticipated WPIAL Class 5A football championship game against top-seeded and unbeaten Moon.
Heinz Field was cold and turning white, with snow flurries falling throughout the evening Saturday.
Despite the slow start after falling behind 14-3 in the second quarter, the Warriors turned to Cade Yacamelli, a senior who will play in his share of cold games starting next year at Wisconsin.
“We had a slow start and needed huge plays to stay in the game,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “Cade didn’t need prodded, he just made it happen. Plus, he played really physical on defense.”
Yacamelli rushed for 136 yards and added 92 receiving yards, all on one play, to help Penn-Trafford secure the school’s first WPIAL football championship, 24-21, over Moon.
How big was Yacamelli’s first touchdown, a 56-yard run that pulled the Warriors to within four points?
“It brought us back to life and made the team believe we were here to stay,” Ruane said.
Then on P-T’s next possession, senior quarterback Carter Green hit Yacamelli in front of the Warriors’ bench and down the sidelines he went on a 92-yard scoring pass to give Penn-Trafford its first lead.
“Protection was great,” Ruane said of the big play. “Credit Carter for making a great read and throw and credit Cade for being full speed and expecting the ball and then finishing it.”
So what is it that makes the 6-foot, 205-pound running back/safety stand out on both sides of the ball for Penn-Trafford?
“Every week he gets smarter and more experienced,” Ruane said. “He understands the dynamics of what opponents are doing on both sides of the ball. As a runner, he has great vision and the ability to create bad angles for tacklers. As a strong safety, he has a great burst to run through the ball carrier.
“Overall, though, his work ethic is unparalleled and it allows him to play with confidence.”
That confidence helped lead the Warriors running attack in a winter wonderland against a staunch Tigers defense. Penn-Trafford ended up with 223 yards on the ground.
“We are always confident we can run the ball and knew Moon’s front four was going to be a great challenge,” Ruane said. “But credit the kids up front and our guys on the perimeter for giving those guys creases.”
Yacamelli and other Warriors mentioned the back-to-back losses to Belle Vernon and Peters Township earlier this season that left P-T with a 2-2 record was a bit of a wake-up call for one of the favorites in the 5A Big East Conference.
“Absolutely,” Ruane said. “Our kids showed that they were going to deal with adversity the right way. There was fantastic leadership by the seniors and great resilience by the whole team.”
Now, Penn-Trafford will prepare to play in its first PIAA postseason football game when it faces District 3 champion Exeter Township in the state semifinals Friday at Bald Eagle Area.
“They’re very good,” Ruane said. “They just beat a tremendous team, and they look good on film.”
WPIAL Week 13 Honorable Mentions
Eli Heidenreich — Mt. Lebanon
The holiday season is a time for great feasts. The Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils got to gorge on some “home cooking” on Thanksgiving Day and the night after.
Playing on their home turf in a PIAA quarterfinals playoff game, Blue Devils wide receiver and defensive back Eli Heidenreich and his teammates had a big appetite, and District 10 champion McDowell was the only thing on the menu.
The senior rushed for 165 yards and scored three times on runs of 27, 14 and 80 yards as the Blue Devils earned their first PIAA football playoff win with a 47-14 rout of the Trojans.
Tiqwai Hayes — Aliquippa
Last week’s Trib HSSN Player of the Week receives more love as the fabulous freshman continued a dominant start to what could be a record-setting career.
Born the same year Aliquippa’s incredible WPIAL championship appearance streak started, the 14-year old Hayes ran the ball like a man twice his age.
Hayes rushed for 133 yards on 26 carries against a stingy Belle Vernon defense, plus he scored on touchdown runs of 1 and 13 yards as the Quips beat the Leopards, 28-13, for a record 18th district crown.
Jayvin Thompson — Central Valley
While Central Valley senior running back Landon Alexander once again proved he was “The Great” with 217 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns, we instead will salute his junior teammate.
Wide receiver/defensive back Jayvin Thompson dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage in yet another dominant performance by the top-ranked Warriors.
Thompson caught touchdown passes of 69 and 15 yards from junior quarterback Antwon Johnson, plus he picked off the North Catholic quarterback four times as the Warriors cruised to a third straight WPIAL championship with a 52-15 win over the Trojans.
Terrell Booth — Serra Catholic
There were plenty of eateries doing a brisk business on Black Friday with many consumers out and about, but they all paled in comparison to the little bakery the Serra Catholic defense opened up on the North Shore with plenty of turnovers for all.
Serra Catholic forced 2020 champion Beaver Falls into five lost fumbles, four interceptions, three defensive scores and a lost chance for two straight titles.
Leading the way on defense for the Eagles was senior Terrell Booth, who had nine tackles, one fumble recovery and two interceptions, including a 15-yard pick-six that began a 21-point fourth quarter avalanche as the Eagles soared past the Tigers, 35-12.
Xavier Nelson — Bishop Canevin
Through one quarter of the WPIAL Class A championship game Friday, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart seemed to be in a good place with a 7-0 lead and controlling the line of scrimmage.
That all changed swiftly in the second quarter as Bishop Canevin took control when it found the X-factor.
Junior wide receiver and defensive back Xavier Nelson turned a couple of short passes into long touchdowns that totaled 102 yards, plus he had a 46-yard interception return for a score as the Crusaders ended a 31-year championship drought with a 42-7 triumph over the Chargers.
2021 HSSN Players of the Week
Week 12 – Tiqwai Hayes, Aliquippa
Week 11 – Josh Jenkins, Sto-Rox
Week 10 – Chris Hood, New Castle
Week 9 – Cadin Olsen, Armstrong
Week 8 – Bobby Boyd, McKeesport
Week 7 – Brad Birch, Gateway
Week 6 – Alex Tecza, Mt. Lebanon
Week 5 – Nijhay Burt, Steel Valley
Week 4 – Devin Whitlock, Belle Vernon
Week 3 – Trenton Carter, Carmichaels
Week 2 – Abraham Ibrahim, Chartiers Valley
Week 1 – Graham Hancox, Seneca Valley
Week Zero – Carson Davidson, Blackhawk
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• With slew of starters returning, expectations soaring at Bethel Park
• Baldwin moves into Class 5A looking to regain confidence
• Upper St. Clair loaded with returning starters, ready for another playoff run