Westmoreland high school football notebook: Cancellation upends Penn-Trafford’s routine

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Saturday, October 10, 2020 | 6:15 PM


Asked for his initial thoughts on the cancellation of Sunday night’s game at Gateway, Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane answered succinctly.

“Depressing.”

The Class 5A Big East heavyweights initially had their matchup postponed because Gateway had to cease operations after an athlete tested positive for the coronavirus.

With Gateway returning from its two-week shutdown, the teams agreed to play Sunday night. But on Friday afternoon, Penn-Trafford announced it was closing for five days because of two positive cases at the high school.

That meant no game Sunday, and it was determined the potential conference-deciding clash will not be made up.

Now the Warriors have to deal with what they didn’t want to have happen when they rescheduled Gateway: a short week.

A really short week.

Penn-Trafford (3-1, 2-0) will not resume athletics until Wednesday, which means the football team will have two days to gameplan for Connellsville and its coach, Penn-Trafford alum Marko Thomas.

The Falcons are 0-5 (0-3 in conference), but Ruane and his staff are creatures of habit. He rules the program with routine and repetition.

The opponent could be anyone. Ruane knows he has a football game for which to prepare and very little time to do so.

“We have to focus is on what we can control,” said Ruane, a teacher at Gateway. “As of now, we return Wednesday. I hope that sticks. I feel terrible for our kids to miss a big game and for the Gateway kids. And for everyone impacted by this — 2020 has been awful.”

Gateway (2-0, 1-0) has missed three straight games. It had to postpone games against Latrobe and Pine-Richland.

Vikings’ big test

Mt. Pleasant has been somewhat of a surprise among Westmoreland teams. Only three county teams have four wins: Mt. Pleasant, Jeannette and Belle Vernon.

But the Vikings (4-1, 4-0) will face their greatest Interstate Conference test next week when they host No. 3 Elizabeth Forward (4-0, 3-0).

The game could decide the conference title. South Park is in third place at 3-1.

Comparative scores might indicate the Vikings will give the Warriors a challenge. Mt. Pleasant beat South Allegheny, 21-14, in Week 1.

Elizabeth Forward had some trouble dispatching those same Gladiators Friday night in a 20-14 victory that lasted two overtimes. Davontay Brownfield stopped South Allegheny’s Antonio Epps at the 1-yard line to seal the win.

The condition of Elizabeth Forward quarterback Evan Lewis could have an impact next week. He was injured in the second quarter Friday and did not return. He was on crutches after the game, but coach Mike Collodi did not speculate on the severity of the injury.

The Warriors were a different team with their fourth-year starter on the sidelines.

Wildcats make a stand

Latrobe had a three-point lead and was backed up to its 5-yard line with four seconds left Friday night against Connellsville. The Falcons had the ball, fourth-and-goal, but opted to go for it rather than try a field goal.

The plan backfired because Latrobe’s defense swarmed Falcons running back Ky’ron Craggette, and junior linebacker Drake Clayton forced him out of bounds at the 1 to seal a thrilling, 29-26 win.

“It was a really good football game, and I’m proud of the effort by these kids,” said Latrobe coach Jason Marucco, whose team moved to 2-2, 1-1.

Thomas, Connellsville’s coach, said he should have gone with his gut with the game on the line. He said he had another play in mind, along with the field goal try.

He changed his mind when he saw Latrobe’s defensive setup.

“I second-guessed myself,” Thomas said. “I should have stuck with the play we had.”

The defensive stand was reminiscent of the one Latrobe used to beat Plum last year, 28-20, to clinch a playoff spot.

Logan Gustafson’s stop of Reed Martin on 4th and goal from the 1 finally sealed it for the Wildcats at Latrobe Memorial Stadium.

Dylan Gustafson ran 28 times for 170 yards and three touchdowns against Connellsville.

Whitlock still at it

Teams that play Belle Vernon know what they’re up against with junior Devin Whitlock, but nobody seems able to stop the shifty playmaker.

All Whitlock (5-8, 165) did before halftime Friday against Ringgold was rush three times for 114 yards and three touchdowns and return an interception a program-record 105 yards for a touchdown as the Leopards won, 56-0.

Belle Vernon rushed for 434 yards.

While Whitlock and the offense get the lion’s share of the attention, the Leopards’ defense has been tremendous. Friday marked the unit’s fourth shutout, the most in 4A.

Workhorse back

Greensburg Salem couldn’t get the ball into the end zone in a 40-0 loss to Armstrong, but the Golden Lions were persistent in their effort to run the ball. Senior Alex Briggs gained 106 yards on a career-high 36 carries.

He said it

“Southmoreland has never liked Yough. Since the 1980s, it’s been like that. They don’t like us, and we don’t like them.” — Southmoreland coach Dave Keefer after Friday’s 24-0 win over Yough.

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

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