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1988 Retrospective - Week Six

Week Six of the 1988 season took the Trojans on the road on a Saturday afternoon to Penn Trafford. In those days, P-T didn't have lights, thus they played their home games on Saturday afternoon. Add to that the fact that it was homecoming week and coming into the game, they were 4-1 added to some of the drama.

Adding to that was the fact that the Warriors were in their first season under coach John Yaccino. He led the P-T program until 1995 when he left for Hazelton. Yaccino spent some time in Texas and came back to the gridiron of Western PA with a high-powered run-and-shoot offense in mind and had a great signal caller leading the charge in Jeff Paladino.

Palladino graduated from P-T with many passing records and although Tony Zimmermann broke many of them less than ten years later, he still holds the school record for most pass attempts (663 over two seasons: '88 and '89). He's also among the career leaders in most passing statistical categories for West Virginia Wesleyan and played professionally for the Johnstown Riverhawks and Pittsburgh Colts.

To counter all that, Coach Davitch looked to a scheme he used during his days as Head Coach at Idaho. "I was coaching against Portland State and they were coached by Mouse Davis, the creator of the run-and-shoot. At the time, their quarterback was Neil Lomax who went on to have a pretty good pro career (22,771 yards and 136 touchdowns over eight seasons with the Cardinals). We put our defensive backs in man-to-man and rushed six guys the entire game."

"That's what we did here and it worked. Their (Penn-Trafford's) receivers couldn't get away from us and we put pressure on their quarterback all day. Chris Peduzzi, one of our outside linebackers, had a tremendous game in this scheme."

The scheme worked pretty well, as the usually prolific Paladino was held to a 4-for-24 performance that netted him just 59 yards passing. Anyone familar with the Penn-Trafford program of the late 80s and 90s know how impressive that was.

Johnstown jumped out to a 14-0 lead on two first quarter touchdowns. Alex Roebuck scored on a 40-yard run and then Mark Roebuck hit pay dirt from a yard out. The PAT kick on Alex's touchdown was no good so Coach Davitch opted to go for two on Mark's touchdown. Mark caught the two-point conversion pass from Alex.

Paladino wasn't completely shutout, as he accounted for the only Warriors' points on the day as he ran the ball in from 11 yards out. Hazlett made the kick and brought P-T to within 7.

Junior Rob Veney added an 18-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to give the Trojans some breathing room. The PAT kick was blocked so the final was set at 20-7.

Another added incentive to winning this game was a group of over exuberant fans that found their way to the fence behind the Trojans' bench and were peppering the team, heckling them and among other things, using racial slurs. Davitch cautioned not to make blanket statements about the school: "Penn-Trafford was a first class organization, from the school district to the coaches and the players, they were all good people. This was just a small group of people misbehaving."

While the Trojans focused through that, Davitch offered a possible reason Penn-Trafford might not have been on their game that day. "The day of the game, the SATs were being given. A bunch of kids from Penn-Trafford took the test that morning and that could have helped with their lack of focus."

After the game, which pushed Johnstown to 6-0 on the year, Johnstown withdrew their application from the District 6-AAAA tournament, thus proclaiming their desire to play in the WPIAL playoffs, with the chance to advance to the championships, which at that time were played at Three Rivers Stadium.

"By then", Davitch concluded, "we thought we were pretty good. We weren't thinking about going undefeated yet, but after this game we thought we might have something special."

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