Westmoreland HS football notebook: Teams enjoy return to normalcy

Saturday, August 28, 2021 | 2:40 PM

As the band played and cheerleaders and students chanted from packed bleachers, the normally steely-eyed John Ruane felt some emotion.

The Penn-Trafford coach soaked in the atmosphere that he and his staffers and players had missed last season. Ruane remembered what it felt like to play in empty stadiums where people in press boxes could hear coaches’ conversations on the sidelines.

He was refreshed to see, and hear, high school football on a Friday night again — the way it was intended.

“I had chills the first time I kind of looked around and saw everyone,” Ruane said Friday night after his Warriors defeated Norwin, 35-14, in North Huntingdon. “Our student section was awesome. It was just so nice to see a real game again.”

While the pandemic appears far from finished, opening night still brought with it a sense of normalcy. The smell of popcorn filled the air at Norwin, and spectators, who were limited last year because of the covid concerns, showed up in droves to cheer for the Warriors and Knights.

There was noise and excitement. Restrictions were lifted and players and fans did not have to wear face masks.

Players even slapped hands after the game, instead of waving and heading in the opposite direction.

“It was so great to be back out there,” said Penn-Trafford quarterback Carter Green, who made his first start under center.

Green, a Seton Hill lacrosse commit, ran for 173 yards and three touchdowns, including a 99-yard score on Penn-Trafford’s first play from scrimmage.

Revenge for Scotties

Southmoreland may have exorcised some demons Friday night with an impressive victory.

The Scotties remembered their last game against McGuffey, a late regular season game that saw them fumble an early lead and fall 55-28.

The loss sent the Scotties into a downward spiral — six straight losses after a 5-0 start, including a loss to Avonworth in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs.

But Friday, Southmoreland jumped on the Highlanders early and finished the job, winning 47-22. McGuffey, now in 2A and ranked fourth, is expected to be solid.

Senior quarterback Anthony Govern ran for three touchdowns and threw two more in the win. Isaac Trout also scored twice.

Stat guys

Greensburg Salem had the top passer and receiver on a WPIAL-wide list compiled by the Tribune-Review Friday night.

Quarterback Hayden Teska completed 14 of 40 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns, both to receiver Cody Rubrecht, who pulled in seven receptions for 197 yards in a 29-14 loss to Hempfield.

If the Golden Lions expect to have a winning season, the senior tandem will have to play a big role. Both players missed much of the 2020 season with injuries.

Still, the Golden Lions have some things to work on. Teska threw three interceptions and Rubrecht fumbled twice, though one was questionable on a punt.

Rubrecht also ran 29 yards with a fake punt.

“We know what we have in Cody,” Greensburg Salem coach Dave Keefer said. “We just have to sure things up.

“It wasn’t a lack of effort. We took some bad penalties. Fatigue was a factor the entire game. It’s tough to condition for 90-degree weather.”

Homecoming night

First-year Hempfield coach Mike Brown said he would enjoy his team’s first win for about two hours before thinking and preparing for his team’s net challenge — a game against his alma mater, Penn-Trafford.

The Spartans (1-0) and Warriors (1-0) will meet in Week 1.

“We have to keep rolling,” Brown said. “We’re not thinking about P-T right now. We’ll look at the film and make our corrections because we made a lot of mistakes out there.

“I think we can fix a lot of things and get the same outcome next week.”

Hempfield used a balanced attack against Greensburg Salem. Gino Caesar rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown and junior quarterback Jake Phillips completed 14 of 24 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner to Ian Tuffs with three minutes left.

Blank expression

Talk about Week Zero. For many teams, the theme for the opening night of games was zero tolerance.

There were fifteen shutouts in the WPIAL, including four that involved Westmoreland County teams.

Latrobe blanked Derry, 61-0, while Yough fell to Albert Gallatin (40-0), Upper St. Clair blanked Greensburg Central Catholic (28-0), and East Allegheny shut out Jeannette (40-0).

FR strong

Franklin Regional turned some heads on opening night with an impressive and emphatic 41-12 victory over neighboring Plum, which came in ranked No. 5 in Class 4A. The Panthers handled the Mustangs with big plays and some variety to get to the end zone.

They had two kickoff returns scores — of 79 and 82 yards by Zach Bewszka and Ayden Hudock — to go with a 64-yard pass from Caden Smith to Hudock, and a 98-yard interception return by the versatile Smith.

Rare loss for Jayhawks

Jeannette doesn’t lose very often, let alone via shutout. A team dealing with new faces and low roster numbers struggled to get the ball in the end zone in the opener and fell to East Allegheny, 40-0.

It was the team’s worst loss since a 40-0 loss to Clairton in the WPIAL Class A championship game in 2015.

Since moving to Class A in 2014, Jeannette has a record of 77-13. The team has only lost seven times during the regular season during that time, and six of the losses are to Clairton.

East Allegheny marked their first regular-season loss to a team other than the Bears in eight seasons.

Before Friday’s loss, the Jayhawks had won 17 straight nonconference games since 2014. Shady Side Academy had been their last nonconference loss, but that was in Class AA in 2013.

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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