Game Preview: Penn-Trafford opens playoffs hosting Bethel Park tonight
Written by: Dan Flickinger
November 04, 2011
QB Zach Emerick has thrown 14 TD passes this season.
Don't tell these Warriors they aren't playoff tested.
Penn-Trafford bursts onto the playoff scene as the “new kids on the block” as head coach John Ruane described his team following an undefeated season and Foothills Conference title.
While being in this position is certainly something new for Penn-Trafford football, don't expect this team to buckle under the post-season pressure. Look no further than signature wins against Mount Lebanon, Gateway, and McKeesport this season to prove that these Warriors can not only play but win games with playoff atmosphere's.
Take the 13-10 win over Gateway for example.
Penn-Trafford not only was trying to defeat a team that has owned them for 10 years, they also knew that they had to defeat the Gators to win their first conference title since 2001.
If that pressure wasn't enough, the Warriors trailed 14-13 and own their own 25 yard line with just 1:25 remaining in the game. Quarterback Zach Emerick guided the offense down field to set up a game-winning 34-yard field goal by Matt Loughnane with just six seconds remaining in the game.
These Warriors are indeed playoff tested.
LISTEN TO COMPLETE INTERVIEW WITH COACH JOHN RUANE
“I think we are battle tested and have been in tight situations late in games and played all four quarters,” head coach John Ruane said.
“It's not like we're strangers to be in a four quarter contest which probably every week of the playoffs will probably be. The fact that we found a way to win some of those (big) games will definitely pay dividends.”
Penn-Trafford (9-0) enters the playoffs as a number 4-seed, one spot below 3-seed Upper St. Clair (8-1). Some believe PT should have been seeded a spot higher and while Ruane thought they did enough to earn that, he understands the WPIAL's reasoning.
“We knew we had a shot at the three but we were betting on the four.”
“I thought we had a good resume – obviously we were undefeated and Upper St. Clair did have a loss but Upper St. Clair is an awesome team and I think their late season play had a lot to do with it. But you have to win no matter who you play in the playoffs and take on who they give us.”
Who the WPIAL gave Penn-Trafford was 13-seed Bethel Park, the third place team of the Great Southern Conference. The Black Hawks (4-5) closed out the season with a 17-14 win against Baldwin but were defeated handily by Upper St. Clair 55-0 and lost to Mount Lebanon 14-3 this season.
“Bethel Park is one of the best coached teams in the WPIAL,” Ruane said. “Last year they were in the exact same position as they are this year and they knocked off McKeesport so it's not like they are going to be intimated.”
The Black Hawks are led by running back Nick Marshall who averages 4.9 yards per carry and has six touchdowns on the season while quarterback has thrown for over 1,000 yards in 2011.
“They try to attack you with downhill running and play-action passing – we're going to have to play our best game of the year to beat them.”
The Warriors expect to get linebacker Tanner Johnson and lineman Zach Crossey back in the lineup. Johnson has missed the last two games after getting injured against Latrobe and Crossey missed one game after suffering an injury against Indiana.
“Thank goodness Tanner's back, that's a big boost for our defense,” Ruane said. “And having Zach Crossey back, a two-way starter, will be tremendous as well.”
Kick-off at Warriors Stadium is at 7:30 tonight. The winner plays the winner of Gateway and Shaler - just another pressure-packed game.