Penn-Trafford, Belle Vernon advance to WPIAL championship games after semifinal wins

Warriors top Pine-Richland 24-6 while Belle Vernon defeats Thomas Jefferson 21-7 in semis

Sat Nov 20, 2021 - 12:29AM

Westmoreland Sports Network Westmoreland Sports Network
Penn-Trafford scored 21 points in the second half to break away from Pine-Richland in the WPIAL 5A semifinal Friday.Penn-Trafford scored 21 points in the second half to break away from Pine-Richland in the WPIAL 5A semifinal Friday.

Last Updated: Mon Nov 22, 2021 - 2:52PM

Penn-Trafford 24 Pine-Richland 6 - Class 5A Semifinal

Cade Yacamelli ran for three touchdowns, all in the second half, as No. 2 Penn-Trafford pulled away from No. 3 Pine-Richland for a 24-6 victory in a WPIAL 5A semifinal at Gateway High School.

The first half featured a defensive tussle as Nate Schlessinger provided the only offense, a 30-yard field goal in the second quarter, which gave Penn-Trafford a 3-0 lead at halftime. The field goal came as P-T's defense made a pair of big stops - halting the Rams at the Penn-Trafford 6-yard-line on Pine-Richland's first drive of the game and following that by thwarting PR's second drive at the Warriors 1-yard-line.

In the second half, Penn-Trafford's defense forced a three-and-out on the Rams first possession and P-T turned it into points on a 33-yard touchdown run by Yacamelli to go up 10-0. The score remained that way until the 6:34 mark of the fourth quarter when Yacamelli capped off an 80-yard drive with a short plunge into the endzone to swell his teams advantage to 17-0. The drive followed a blocked Pine-Richland field goal attempt by Dan Tarabrella.

The Rams (7-5) did make things a bit interesting as quarterback Ryan Palmieri connected with Alex Mellis on a 52-yard touchdown pass with 5:06 on the clock. But Penn-Trafford put the game away as Seth Dunlap recovered the ensuing onside kick and Yacamelli scored his third touchdown of the contest on a 17-yard jaunt.


Yacamelli, a Wisconsin commit, ran for 208 yards on 19 carries while quarterback Carter Green went for 95 yards on 17 attempts.

"It's a big win, a high character win," Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said after. "We challenged the guys at halftime. We knew we didn't play our best football (in the first half), our defense certainly did, and we finally came alive on offense in the second half. But our defense was the story of the night."

Penn-Trafford (10-2) advances to the final for the fourth time in school history. The Warriors will play top-seeded Moon (12-0) which defeated Penn Hills 14-9 in the other semifinal. The game will be held on Saturday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh at 6 p.m.

Belle Vernon 21 Thomas Jefferson 7 - Class 4A Semifinal

In rematch from the regular season, Belle Vernon prevailed for the second time this year as the top-seeded Leopards downed No. 5 Thomas Jefferson 21-7 in the WPIAL 4A semifinals at West Mifflin.

Dynamic senior quarterback Devin Whitlock scored twice in the first quarter, on touchdown runs of 22 and 79 yards, to give the Leopards a 14-0 lead after one. The two-touchdown edge remained through the third quarter when Quinton Martin capped off an eight-play drive with a 19-yard scoring run to make it 21-0 with 8:02 left in regulation.

Thomas Jefferson (8-3) scored its lone touchdown of the game with only 59 seconds left in the contest on a 1-yard run by Joe Lekse.

Whitlock finished with 146 yards on the ground with 21 attempts while the Leopards defense held the mighty Jaguars rushing attack to just 69 yards.

"The unit was special tonight," Belle Vernon coach Matt Humbert said about his defense. "Our kids had a hard week of work because of the New Castle game and because the know we weren't the best they can be."

Belle Vernon (10-0), which topped Thomas Jefferson 28-21 in the regular season, advances to play Aliquippa in the district championship on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Quips (10-1) edged McKeesport 27-21 in the other semifinal. Aliquippa defeated Belle Vernon in the semifinals last year 33-25.