Canon-McMillan throws a scare into Penn-Trafford written by David Whipkey of the Observer-Reporter

(Pictured: Canon-McMillan senior Austin Winkleblech sights in a michael Evans pass for a 69-yard touchdown in the first quarter Friday night. Picture credit: Mark Marietta/For the Observer-Reporter.)
Posted On: Monday, August 29, 2022

(Pictured: Canon-McMillan senior Austin Winkleblech sights in a michael Evans pass for a 69-yard touchdown in the first quarter Friday night. Picture credit: Mark Marietta/For the Observer-Reporter.)

This article was written and released by David Whipkey of the Observer-Reporter. The original article can be found here.

CANONSBURG – Canon-McMillan coach Mike Evans knew coming into this season his football team had a daunting task in one of the toughest schedules in the WPIAL if not the entire state.

One of two 2021 PIAA champions that are slated to face the Big Macs visited Canonsburg Friday evening in the Penn-Trafford Warriors, who were reigning kings of Class 5A. At times, the Warriors looked every bit the part of a champion as they defeated Canon-McMillan 35-28 at Allegheny Health Network Field at Canonsburg Memorial Stadium.

“That’s a tremendous program over there,” Evans said in reference to Penn-Trafford. “We’re not quite at that level yet. But I was very encouraged with what I saw tonight and proud of my guys.”

Big Mac quarterback Mike Evans, the coach’s son, came alive in the second half and finished with 303 yards passing. Jake Kasper ran for 198 yards on 18 carries while Austyn Winkleblech finished with 135 yards on three catches.

Penn-Trafford quarterback Conlan Greene, a Temple commit, did his best Josh Allen impersonation from his uniform number of 17 to his style of play. The 6-4 250-pound senior dominated the first half and finished with 19 completions in 26 attempts for 344 yards. He also rushed for 48 yards on 13 carries.

His favorite target was Daniel Tarabrella, who finished with eight receptions for 135 yards.

“I’ve been playing football with Danny for a long time and he’s one I can really trust,” Greene noted. “I trust all my receivers. But most of the time he’s open and I really enjoyed hitting him down the seam.”

Penn-Trafford flexed the muscles early on the game’s opening drive, taking the ball 73 yards in 10 plays. Greene capped the march with an eight-yard strike to Tarabrella in the front corner of the end zone. Logan Swartz booted home the extra-point, giving the visitors an early 7-0 lead.

Canon-McMillan fired right back when Evans found Winkleblech streaking past the Warriors secondary for a 69-yard scoring connection. Zachary Barzd’s conversion was true as the hosts knotted the game at 7-7.

The Warriors responded as champions usually do with a 79-yard drive that was culminated by Greene, who used his 250-pound frame to its fullest for a two-yard plunge into the end zone and a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter.

After a Canon-McMillan punt, Penn-Trafford set out to distance itselves from the scrappy Big Macs by marching 80 yards to their third straight score. A Greene 30-yard pass on third and long to Tarabrella put the Warriors into Big Mac territory. Owen Demeri ended the drive with a one-yard plunge to give the visitors a two score lead midway through the second quarter.

Canon-McMillan added to their woes when Kasper fumbled on the Big Mac 44 on their ensuing possession. Vito Scarcelli recovered for the Warriors on the spot, setting up Penn-Trafford to put even more points on the board, which is exactly what they did one play later When Greene found Tommy Kalkstein for a 44 yard touchdown connection and a 28-7 lead late in the half.

The Big Macs looked to have cut the deficit in half on their next possession when Evans found Winkleblech for a 57 yard touchdown connection, but it was nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty.

Greene made one mistake late in the first half when he was intercepted by Ben Urso on the Big Mac 26.

Penn-Trafford’s offense churned out 310 first half yards to 109 for Canon-McMillan.

Evans and the Big Macs started the second-half red hot when he found Winkleblech for a 64-yard scoring connection, slicing the Warriors lead in half at 28-14. The Big Macs defense stepped up in the second half by forcing two Penn-Trafford punts, keeping the hosts a float for the better part of the third and into the early part of the fourth quarter.

But the Big Macs offense self destructed twice in the second half as they attempted to claw all the way back. A holding penalty helped stall out one Big Macs drive on the Warriors 10 yard line midway through the third period, while two muffed snaps ended another Canon-McMillan drive at the Penn-Trafford 25 at the beginning of the fourth.

Greene then made the Big Macs pay when he fired a 49-yard dagger to Jacob Otto who raced into the end zone for a 35-14 Warriors lead with 8:35 remaining in regulation.

But the Big Macs refused to quit as Kasper broke off an 86-yard run to the Penn-Trafford 8 on the very next play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Evans found Winkleblech for a five-yard touchdown, again pulling to within two scores at 35-21 with 7:06 left in the fourth.

“Jake ran the ball real hard and the offensive line played real well for us as well,” coach Evans added.

Canon-McMillan’s defense again held and forced a punt. Three plays later, Evans found a streaking Urso for a 72-yard catch and run that pulled the Big Macs within 35-28 with a little more than two minutes remaining. The chance for a monumental come from behind upset was very real.

Penn-Trafford however collected the onsides kick and eventually ran out the clock when Kalkstein took a reverse handoff for a 12-yard gain in third and 10 to net the game clinching first down.

“We really needed it because it was getting hairy there at the end,” Greene added. “I just told the guys we’d be fine and we got the first down to end it.”

Canon-McMIllan finished with 411 total yards while Penn-Trafford gained 488.

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