East Xtra: Penn-Trafford's offense running on Austin's power

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Devin Austin is officially listed as 5 feet 9, 175 pounds on Penn-Trafford's roster. Sometimes his coaches have to remind him of that.

This quick senior running back can outrun most people on the field, but at times he also likes to try to run them over.

"He runs like he is 240 pounds," coach John Ruane said. "He likes to find contact. We are looking for him to get to the open space and go. His running style is what you want, he is tough and physical and he is fast at the same time."

Austin averaged 6 yards a carry last season. He ran the ball 214 times for 1,275 yards and caught 10 passes for 81 yards. He was second on the team with eight touchdowns scored.

It is easy to see why Ruane would like to see his feature running back avoid contact at all costs. With 214 carries Austin was second in Class AAAA behind only Central Catholic's Luigi Lista-Brinza who ran 220 times.

"He is obviously a key component of our offense," Ruane said. "This will be his third year starting and I think he is one of the top runners in the WPIAL."

The Warriors offense does have other options.

Quarterback Brett Laffoon completed 100 of 184 passes for 1,430 yards and 13 touchdowns. Wide receiver Timmy Vecchio caught 40 passes for 682 yards. Laffoon (6-2, 185) and Vecchio (5-10, 170) return this year as juniors.

"Last year we really relied heavily on the run," Ruane said. "This year we can be more diverse with a number of weapons. We don't want to overload Devin."

Ruane hopes the return of Laffoon and Vecchio can help balance the offense and open things up for Austin, but he knows the team has to show first that it is able to consistently throw the ball.

"Obviously we have to make people get out of the box by putting the ball down the field," Ruane said. "We will certainly give that a shot. Ultimately it comes down to us blocking people. I think we have enough diversity, people are going to be keying on the run game."

Austin was complemented in the backfield by Tom Stinelli last season. He rushed for 707 yards but has since graduated. Looking to fill his role in the backfield alongside Austin is junior Jonah Lisbon (5-11, 195) and senior Justin Smith (5-9, 165).

"Tom was awesome for us last year, he was huge especially in the playoffs," Ruane said. "Lisbon is going to be really good and Justin Smith is going to get carries. We are definitely going to try to split the workload up. I don't want anyone carrying it an obnoxious amount of times."

Austin, Stinelli and Lisbon are all versatile and yet similar running backs.

"I think they are similar but they can all do short yardage," Ruane said. "They can get into the secondary. We are not afraid to run any type of play with any of them, it's not like we have a goal-line back."

Penn-Trafford finished 6-2 in the Foothills Conference last season. In the playoffs the Warriors edged Penn Hills, 22-16, before upsetting No. 3 seed and previously undefeated McKeesport, 35-20, in the WPIAL quarterfinals. Penn-Trafford had lost, 34-14, at McKeesport earlier in the season. The Warriors season came to an end in the WPIAL semifinals after a 49-10 loss to eventual WPIAL champion Central Catholic.

Penn-Trafford opens the season Aug. 29 at Kiski Area. The Cavaliers won the regular-season meeting last year, 34-14, a result that surprised many.

"We had a tough night at Kiski last year, they handled us," Ruane said. "That is who we open with and that is the one on our mind."

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