Westmoreland County football notes: Penn-Trafford, Franklin Regional show mutual respect

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Thursday, October 24, 2019 | 6:01 PM


Penn-Trafford knows what it is getting with Franklin Regional. But the sentiment is mutual.

“It’s your prototypical Franklin Regional team,” Warriors coach John Ruane said. “Big, strong linemen. Physical linebackers. Good skill guys.”

You get the point.

That being said, Ruane has a message for his team this week as the No. 1 Warriors (8-1, 5-0) prepare to visit Franklin Regional (4-3, 3-2): Approach with caution.

Penn-Trafford is looking to win its regular-season finale — the 500th game in program history — as well as clinch its first outright conference title since 2015 and likely lock down the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL playoffs which begin next Friday.

But Franklin Regional, which has secured its 16th straight playoff appearance, doesn’t plan to make it easy.

Giving the highly touted Warriors, who have shaken off key injuries to maintain their top ranking and grip on first place, all they can handle is a chore, but not out of the question.

“We’ll earn every single yard we get,” Ruane said. “Their running game is physical and they’ll look to impose their will.”

Longtime Panthers coach Greg Botta was almost taken aback when asked what concerns him most about the Warriors. Pinpointing one thing is not that simple.

“Are you kidding me?” Botta asked. “Their defense is unbelievable. They attack the football on every play. (Quarterback Gabe) Dunlap is a threat every time he receives the snap. They are deep at running back. They have some boys they haven’t shown yet.

“Their offensive and defensive lines will rock you. And they have a super head coach with great assistants.”

That about covers it when it comes to the Warriors scouting report — one that does not include standout running back Caleb Lisbon, who is done for the season with a knee injury.

The senior was injured against McKeesport, as was another senior ball carrier in Sam Fanelli, who could return for the playoffs. Fanelli starting practicing again this week.

Juniors Brad Ford and Nate Frye, and sophomore Cade Yacamelli have filled in nicely. Ruane has been pleased with his second wave of rushers.

“It’s nice to get them more reps,” he said. “Before, they didn’t have that in practice. They have done a nice job, but we can always improve.”

Last year, Dunlap ran for 106 yards and accounted for three touchdowns as Penn-Trafford beat the Panthers in Harrison City, 30-14. Lisbon ran for 163 yards and a score.

Franklin Regional scored twice in the fourth quarter on a 44-yard burst by Zac Gordon and a short run by Colton Johns. Gordon ran for 75 yards in the loss.

Chasing 6,000

Norwin senior quarterback Jack Salopek is looking to cap his career by reaching the 6,000-yard mark.

Salopek, a Western Michigan commit, needs 133 yards to reach the milestone.

Norwin (2-7) visits Seneca Valley (3-6) Friday night.

Salopek could finish inside the top 15 passers in WPIAL history — and become the first passer from Westmoreland County to throw for 6,000.

He could catch Steel Valley grad Luke Getsy (2001), who threw for 6,010 yards. Getsy is 14th on the WPIAL list.

Robby Kalkstein of Gateway (2009) is 13th with 6,501 yards.

Nine WPIAL passers have topped the 7,000-yard mark.

The top five coming into this season were: 1. Brett Brumbaugh of South Fayette (2014), 11,084 yards; 2. Brady Walker of Gateway (2017), 8,816; 3. Lenny Williams of Sto-Rox (2013), 8,509; 4. Tyler Bradley of OLSH (2018), 8,476; 5. Phil Jurkovec of Pine-Richland (2017), 8,202.

Salopek needs 91 yards to break the Knights’ single-season mark of 2,037 yards set by Waylon Davis in 1997.

MP hanging around

Mt. Pleasant will take its WPIAL playoff hopes into the last night of the regular season.

The Vikings are tied with Deer Lakes at 3-4 for fourth place in the Class 3A Big East Conference.

Burrell is a game ahead at 4-3.

The top four teams make the playoffs. North Catholic has clinched first place, Derry is second, and Elizabeth Forward is third.

So, scenarios Friday look like this:

• If Burrell beats Derry, Burrell is fourth.

• If Burrell loses and Deer Lakes and Mt. Pleasant lose, Burrell is fourth.

• If Burrell loses, Deer Lakes loses and Mt. Pleasant wins, Mt. Pleasant is fourth.

• If Burrell loses, Deer Lakes wins and Mt. Pleasant wins, Deer Lakes is fourth based on Gardner Points.

Home cooking

Regardless of what happens against Franklin Regional, Penn-Trafford has secured a home game in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.

Belle Vernon (4A) and Derry (3A) also will be home for their postseason opener, while Jeannette (A) can secure a home game — the first playoff game on its new turf — with a win over Clairton.

Intriguing matchup

A notable nonconference game to watch Friday night is a battle of playoff-bound teams from Westmoreland County: Southmoreland at Greensburg Central Catholic.

Southmoreland is headed to the Class 2A playoffs — its first postseason berth in 40 years — while GCC (Class A) is returning to the playoffs after a three-year absence.

GCC has some talented defensive backs, a group that has produced 21 interceptions, while pass-happy Southmoreland features quarterback Zach Cernuto (1,654 yards, 15 TDs) and wideout Riley Comforti (57 catches, 905 yards, 8 TDs).

There is a family connection, too. Southmoreland offensive coordinator Tim Bukowski and GCC running back Zach Kuvinka are cousins.

Clarion offers pair

Two local players picked up Division II scholarship offers from Clarion: Hempfield senior running back/defensive back Nathan Roby and Yough senior tight end/defensive end Russell Pytlak.

Seton Hill also offered Pytlak.

Roby has rushed for 1,042 yards and 13 touchdowns. Last week he ran for 313 yards and six touchdowns on 25 carries as the Spartans downed Butler, 55-28. He set Hempfield records for touchdowns in a season (18) and career (29).

Pytlak has 11 catches for 126 yards and two TDs and has 54 tackles, 14 or losses.

Trick or treat

Belle Vernon will offer a unique event Friday night for its elementary students with its Halloween Trick or Treat and Parade at The Weir.

Any student wearing a costume will get free admission and be able to get candy and participate in the parade on the field before the game.

Students are to meet below the press box at 5:30 p.m. with the parade set to start at 5:45.

“It’s a lot of fun and our kids love it,” Belle Vernon football coach Matt Humbert said.

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

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