Penn-Trafford, North Hills set to reignite postseason rivalry
Pat Carey can’t remember how many times North Hills and Penn-Trafford have met in a football game.
But the North Hills coach said it started to become laughable for a stretch when the teams squared off in the opening round.
Counting Friday’s WPIAL Class 5A first round contest at Warrior Stadium, this will be the sixth time the teams will have played in the postseason. North Hills won the first five meetings, including four consecutive seasons (2003-06). They also met numerous times during the regular season.
But Penn-Trafford won the last meeting in a big way, 56-7, in 2015.
“These are totally different teams,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “North Hills is physical team that likes to control the pace with its offense. Being physical is a hallmark of North Hills; they’ve been that forever.
“They pride themselves on being one of the toughest teams in the WPIAL. If you’re not physical with them, they’re going to take it to you.”
Ruane said the Indians are a lot better than their 6-4 record. North Hills lost to the top three seeded teams in Class 5A -- Gateway, Penn Hills and Peters Township. It also fell to Mars in the Northern Conference.
“We were pretty banged up when we played Gateway and Mars,” Carey said. “We had five players out against Gateway (a 45-0 loss) and Mars (a 42-14 defeat). We’re still not completed healthy, but we’re healthier than we’ve been.”
The biggest loss was quarterback Tyler Brennan. He’s back after missing four-and-a-half games.
Brennan is a running quarterback, leading the Indians with 773 yards and 18 touchdowns. Running back Tyler Tomasic has rushed for 535 yards.
North Hills doesn’t throw a lot, but Penn-Trafford linebacker Niko Rosso said they are effective.
“We have to be ready for anything,” Rosso said. “They’re physical, and we have to match them. It should be a fun game.”
Penn-Trafford’s offense is a little more balanced.
Junior quarterback Gabe Dunlap has completed 68 of 116 passes for 1,102 yards and 12 touchdowns. Dimitri George is the leading receiver with 33 catches for 646 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Warriors’ ground attack is led by junior Caleb Lisbon, who has rushed for 963 yards and 13 touchdowns. Dunlap has rushed for 699 yards.
“They do a lot of things on offense,” Carey said. “We have to be aware who lines up at quarterback. We’re looking forward to a good game, just like they were before.”
Ruane said North Hills will show a lot of different defensive looks, so that’s something they have to focus on.
“They’re creative on offense,” Ruane said. “It’s a tough team to play in a very short week.”
Penn-Trafford opened the season with consecutive losses to Norwin and Gateway and then rolled off eight-straight victories.
Ruane said he’s pleased how the team has responded from that start and how Dunlap is running the offense.
“We expect him to step up and play well,” Ruane said. “He’s put us in good positions all season.
“There were some questions about our team coming into the season, especially after the first two games. Our senior leadership has been strong, and they decided to be a good team. I’m happy with this group, and I think we have a high ceiling; hopefully, we don’t slip up. We have a lot of potential here.”