East/South Xtra: McKeesport very wary of improved Penn-Trafford

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Along the way to its perfect 10-0 record, McKeesport Area defeated Penn-Trafford, 34-14, in Week 4 of the regular season.

But Tigers coach George Smith knows his team will be in for a battle when McKeesport takes on the Warriors (7-3) again in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal matchup Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Norwin.

"Looking at the tapes, Penn-Trafford is a pretty darn good team," Smith said. "In our first game, they self-destructed on a few plays and we took advantage. But they were in position to take the game down to the wire against us."

McKeesport led Penn-Trafford, 14-7, late in the first half, but a bad snap on a punt gave the Tigers the ball inside the Warriors' 20-yard line and Mc-Keesport scored right before the break to take a 14-point lead into halftime.

The Tigers then scored on the first possession of the second half, when Allen Wright made a few Penn-Trafford players miss on a long touchdown run that basically put the game away.

"We have to tackle better this game," Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. "That's the area we need to improve the most."

It should benefit the Warriors that they've already seen and played against McKeesport's flexbone, triple-option attack. When Smith came out of retirement to coach McKeesport after a three-year hiatus, he re-installed his system. And week-by-week, the Tigers have become more comfortable in the offense.

The Tigers offense averages 36. 3 points per game this season, but is averaging 46 points over their past four contests. McKeesport was clicking on all cylinders in its first-round win against Peters Township, scoring on each of its first eight possessions in a 54-28 win.

"[Our players] are seeing it," Smith said. "They understand what we're doing."

Fullback Mikell Moore is the workhorse, carrying the ball 145 times for 1,023 yards. But the Tigers have multiple running options. Quarterback David Queen has rushed for more than 600 yards and Allen Wright, Carlos Hudson, TyWann Smith, Seanlou Gilmore and Khaleke Hudson all have more than 200 yards rushing this season. The abundance of ball carriers has been important because most of the players also play on defense.

"When I came back, one of the things I wanted to do was make sure we had enough running backs who could carry the ball," Smith said. "It's allowed us to give each a breather on offense."

The Tigers will need their defenders to be fresh to try and stop the Penn-Trafford offense, which has scored 99 points during a three-game winning streak.

Two of those wins, against Gateway on Oct. 18 and last Friday in the first-round of the playoffs against Penn Hills, have come on last-minute touchdown passes by Brett Laffoon.

"It definitely showed a lot about the character of this team," Ruane said. "We always believe we can win."

The Warriors' offense controlled the ball well against McKeesport in the first game, with Devin Austin rushing for 116 yards and Laffoon passing for 136 yards.

Ruane knows it will take a similar effort -- minus the mistakes -- this time around to pull the upset.

"We have to possess the ball and keep their offense off the field," Ruane said. "And we have to make the little plays we didn't make the first time.

"Any one of them could be a game-changer."

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