East Xtra: Penn-Trafford wins county competition

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While high school football coaches around the WPIAL are gearing up to prepare their offensive units for the upcoming season, John Ruane already got a preview of the potential he will have to work with this fall.

Two weeks ago, Ruane's Penn-Trafford High School football team -- well, at least part of it -- flexed its offensive muscle by winning the Westmoreland County Coaches Association's 7-on-7 tournament that took place at Franklin Regional High School's Panther Stadium.

"We did a very good job against a lot of good teams," Ruane said. "There was good competition all day."

The day-long, 12-team tournament featured Penn-Trafford, Franklin Regional, Greensburg Central Catholic, Greensburg Salem, Hempfield Area, Jeannette, Kiski Area, Mount Pleasant, Norwin, Southmoreland, Valley and Yough.

Playing in a pool of teams that included Greensburg Central Catholic, Greensburg Salem, Jeannette, Kiski Area and Valley, Penn-Trafford went 4-0-1 before reaching the championship game against neighboring rival Norwin. The Warriors cruised past the Knights, 21-12, in the title game and won their second WCCA tournament in three years.

"We're happy with that," Ruane said. "We also played a young quarterback, who played well. The biggest thing we wanted was to get him some experience with the speed and competition that comes at the varsity level.

"Overall, we're happy with how everything played out."

Sophomore Brett Laffoon took command of the Warriors' offensive unit in the tournament and is expected to be Ruane's starting quarterback this season. Laffoon replaces Dorian Stevens, a senior last season who threw for 976 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"Brett did a nice job overall," Ruane said. "We moved him up as a freshman, so this will be his second year with [the varsity team]. He's been working hard all offseason. He's working every day. He is intelligent and poised.

"He got a lot of confidence from [the tournament]. This will be his first year thrown into the fire [as a starter] at the varsity level. He got a lot of reps, but for a young quarterback you can't even get enough reps."

The 7-on-7 format, however, prohibits blocking and tackling, and it features just one lineman used to snap the ball to the quarterback.

"The reality of football is there is more than just sitting back and throwing the ball," Ruane said. "You still have to block, tackle, pass protect, avoid blitzes and everything else that comes with the game. Offensively, you're going to need to run the ball, so from that angle it's not realistic.

"Still, you get to work on getting your timing down and get comfortable with how to do things. This isn't something to celebrate as much as knowing we got some work done and we have some work still to do."

Even though the tournament did not offer full-contact competition, Ruane still got a preseason glance at a few opposing teams his Warriors will face during the regular season.

"With the teams we will see in Quad A, the competition we pretty good," Ruane said. "I was very impressed with Kiski Area. When we play them this season it's going to be a big game for us. Norwin has greatly improved and you can tell they are on the rise. Hempfield looked good, too, and could be a sleeping giant. They have a ton of athletes and will be a team to watch."

A member of the WPIAL's Class AAAA Foothills Conference, Penn-Trafford finished behind conference-winner Gateway last season with a 7-1 record. The Warriors ended its season 7-3 overall after losing to Central Catholic in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

Penn-Trafford is slated to open this season Aug. 30 at home against North Hills. The Warriors jump into conference play the very next week at Norwin.

"I am very pleased with our guys [entering the season]," Ruane said. "We have a lot of experience coming back. Hopefully, we'll be able to run the ball. We should be capable of winning.

"Defense is where you win and lose games. We're going to keep working on that. We'll be able to tell more once we put the pads on and hopefully we'll have a good season."



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