Gateway defeats Penn-Trafford to take back Victory Bell
It’s a great time of the year for Gateway football coach Don Holl, who gets a passing grade for containing his emotions Friday night at fabled Antimarino Stadium in Monroeville.
He watched his top-ranked Class 5A Gators flex their muscles again for a second decisive victory to open the season while trying his best to focus on the game.
But there was no telling how excited he could become at the thought of his son T.J. Holl’s college opener for Colgate on Saturday against Holy Cross.
“My son’s a captain at Colgate,” Holl said, breaking into a smile.
Generally, he was all business before, during and after Gateway’s 27-7 victory over Penn-Trafford in the annual Victory Bell game. The Gators took back the trophy in the series after Penn-Trafford reclaimed it a year earlier with a 28-0 victory.
Gateway got revenge against the Warriors in the 2017 WPIAL championship game, winning 21-16 at Heinz Field in a game that didn’t qualify for the trophy.
“I said before the game that Penn-Trafford isn’t just a good team. They’re a program,” Holl said. “They pushed us around a little, and maybe we needed that.”
Brendan Majocha passed for 161 yards and two touchdowns, and Derrick Davis and Courtney Jackson each scored twice as Gateway (2-0, 1-0 Big East), after falling behind early, scored 27 unanswered points to keep Penn-Trafford (0-2, 0-1 Big East) winless.
“We’ve got really good kids,” Holl said. “They’re talented, yes. But they’re really good kids who work hard. That’s the takeaway for me.”
Penn-Trafford quarterback Gabe Dunlap passed for 151 yards and rushed for 101, scoring the Warriors’ lone touchdown on a 2-yard run in the first quarter.
“We saw a lot of good things. It was a big improvement from our first game,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said, referring to a 44-36 loss to Class 6A Norwin in the opener.
“But we’re not there yet. We’ve got some new players, and maybe that’s a reason for all the penalties that really set us back. When you play the (No. 3) team in the state, you can’t do that.”
Gateway, which opened the season with a 31-8 victory at Mt. Lebanon, is ranked third in the Tribune-Review’s PIAA Class 5A rankings.
Penn-Trafford’s offense asserted itself early, taking the ball 92 yards on the opening drive to score a touchdown on Dunlap’s 2-yard run.
The drive, aided by a third-down facemask penalty against Gateway at the Gators 9, consumed 9 minutes, 27 seconds.
“We couldn’t have drawn it up any better,” Ruane said.
Gateway’s offense then sputtered and punted after holding onto the ball for less than 2 minutes on its first possession.
The game appeared to be resembling Penn-Trafford’s regular-season victory last year. But Gateway seized momentum in the second quarter by scoring 14 points.
The Gators took a 14-7 lead with just 43 seconds left on a 36-yard screen pass from Brendan Majocha to Derrick Davis and Majocha’s 2-point conversion run.
It was Davis’ 1-yard touchdown run earlier in the quarter that pulled Gateway within 7-6.
“Gateway made good adjustments and made great plays to get up on us,” Ruane said.
The Gators pulled away in the second half, scoring single touchdowns in the third and fourth quarter.
They used an 80-yard drive on the opening possession of the third quarter to produce Majocha’s 5-yard scoring pass to Jackson for a 20-7 advantage.
Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Jackson, subbing in the backfield for Davis -- who left the game with leg discomfort -- took a pitch from Majocha and raced 4 yards into the end zone as Gateway took a 20-point lead.
“We’ve got potential for a good team, and our effort was there tonight. I’m happy for that,” Ruane said. “Gateway has a ton of talent, but we’re 0-2 and we’ve got to get our act together.”