With eye on wild-card berth, Penn-Trafford faces Franklin Regional with ‘just win’ mindset

Wednesday, October 26, 2022 | 5:48 PM

Late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis had a motto: Just win, baby.

Penn-Trafford football coach John Ruane will be adopting that adage for the regular-season finale against first-place Franklin Regional.

“That’s our mindset Friday: Just win,” Ruane said.

The reigning WPIAL and PIAA 5A champions need a victory at home against the Panthers to keep their playoff hopes alive. A victory puts them in a good position to earn one of the two wild-card spots available in the eight-team playoff bracket.

Franklin Regional (6-2, 4-0) and Gateway (7-2, 4-1) already have earned berths from the Big East Conference. Penn-Trafford will be competing with teams from the Allegheny Six and the Northeast Conference.

“Our playoffs begin on Friday,” Ruane said. “The players know what’s at stake. I’m sure they don’t want to see their season end.

“And I’m sure we’re going to get a great test from Franklin Regional. They want to end the conference undefeated and wouldn’t mind keeping us out of the playoffs.”

The Warriors (5-4, 2-2) have played one of the tougher schedules in the WPIAL. They’ve faced North Allegheny, ranked No. 1 in Class 6A, McKeesport, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, and Belle Vernon, ranked No. 3 in Class 3A. And then there is the Warriors’ conference schedule, which is extremely tough.

“We’re battled tested, for sure,” Ruane said. “We’ve played a lot of great teams.”

Penn-Trafford is coming off a 20-3 loss to North Allegheny.

Ruane said he felt the defense played well.

“We gave them a couple short fields and a special teams touchdown,” Ruane said. “We also played a lot of junior varsity players to give them varsity experience.”

It’s been a tough season injury-wise for the Warriors. Jake Otto and Josh Huffman were lost for the season, and running back Owen Demari and wide receivers Daniel Tarabrella and Tommy Kalkstein missed games.

Ruane said he’s glad to get Demari, Tarabrella and Kalkstein back in the lineup.

Franklin Regional has rolled off four consecutive wins since its double-overtime loss at Shaler. The Panthers clinched the conference title by thumping Hempfield, 56-21, two games ago, and last week defeated the first-place team in the Northeast Conference, North Hills, 34-14.

Running back Zach Bewszka, who suffered an upper-body injury in the Hempfield game, missed the North Hills game.

Second-year coach Lance Getsy said the object Friday is to stay undefeated in the conference.

“That’s our goal,” Getsy said about defeating Penn-Trafford. “It has nothing to do about keeping them out of the playoffs. This game is more about us and what we want to achieve as a team. We want to use this game as a stepping stone.”

Getsy said he’s been pleased with the progress the team has made throughout the season, especially on defense.

“The players understand our schemes better, and mentally, we’ve been strong,” Getsy said. “We’ve been getting better every day.”

Senior quarterback Roman Sarnic spearheads the Panthers offense with his ability to run and throw. He has rushed for 874 yards and 14 touchdowns and thrown for 960 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Junior wide receiver Ayden Hudock has been a game-breaker. He has 29 receptions for 791 yards and nine touchdown catches. He has rushed for three scores and returned a kickoff and an interception for TDs. Bewszka has rushed for 718 yards and six touchdowns.

“Roman is crafty and makes it difficult to defend,” Ruane said. “Ayden is an outstanding athlete. He makes plays all over the field. I’m also impressed how aggressive their defense runs to the ball.

“Our problems have been self-inflicted. We’ve turned the ball over too many times and committed too many turnovers. When we don’t do that, we win games.”

Penn-Trafford senior quarterback Conlan Greene has rushed for 671 yards and eight touchdowns and has thrown for 1,223 yards and eight touchdowns. Tarabrella is the leading receiver with 36 catches for 555 yards and three touchdowns.

Demari has rushed for 294 yards in five games.

“Penn-Trafford is well coached and does a lot of things on both sides of the ball,” Getsy said. “They are one of the top teams in Class 4A.

“They are very strong and aggressive. I’m looking forward to a great atmosphere and a very physical game.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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