Hempfield, Latrobe football teams creating a buzz in Westmoreland County

Wednesday, September 7, 2022 | 7:10 PM

The buzz around central Westmoreland County isn’t coming from honey bee hives.

It’s the chatter from fans of the Hempfield and Latrobe football teams.

The 2-0 start by each team has created a buzz as they prepare to face each other in a nonconference battle at 7 p.m. Friday at Latrobe’s Memorial Stadium.

A large crowd is expected to jam the home of the Wildcats.

This is the 51st meeting between the schools that started in 1959 with the Wildcats winning 22-12. They played 25 consecutive seasons (1959-83).

The teams haven’t played since 2015 when the Spartans won 62-12. Hempfield, which has won the past four meetings, leads the all-time series, 30-17-3.

“It’s going to be a great atmosphere,” Hempfield coach Mike Brown said. “It’s something the players deserve to be in.

“I’m excited. The coaches know each other. The players have played against and know each other. It brings excitement to the communities.”

Probably the only thing missing from this game was if they were playing for a conference title.

“These are the types of games you want to play in,” Latrobe coach Ron Prady said, “two local teams facing each other. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.

“Hempfield is really good and will be a big challenge for us. But we need a game like this to prepare us for bigger games down the road.”

Latrobe opened the season by blanking Derry, 55-0, and followed that win by surviving a big comeback from Franklin Regional, finally pulling out a 36-33 overtime win last week.

Robby Fulton led the way by rushing for 252 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime.

Prady said the Wildcats are spending time this week fixing mistakes.

“We have to take care of the ball better,” Prady said. “We gave Franklin Regional short fields twice and it took advantage. We can’t do that against Hempfield. We need to play defense like we did in the first half. We have to match their physicality.”

Prady praised the play of H-back/tight ends Corey Boerio and Connor Lakin and the offensive line of left tackle Caleb Lehman, left guard Wyatt Held, center Daniel Calabrese, right guard Ben Gera and right tackle Ray Dupilka.

“We’re having a Hempfield defense that is physical and has only allowed three points in two games,” Prady said. “Their offense is another problem with Jake (quarterback Phillips) and Gino (running back Caesar) leading the way.”

Hempfield has scored 49 points each of its first two games, wins against Greensburg Salem and Connellsville.

While it was no surprise how well Hempfield handled its first two opponents, Brown said there is always room for improvement.

“I’d like to see us start better,” Brown said. “That starts in practice. This definitely will be our best test of the season so far.

“Latrobe is physical and Fulton will be a load for us to defend. You hold your breath any time he touches the ball.”

Fulton had touchdown runs of 92 and 73 yards against Franklin Regional last week. The senior has rushed for 473 yards and nine touchdowns.

Hempfield’s offense has been running smoothly in its first two games.

Caesar has rushed for 253 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Phillips has completed 23 of 32 passes for 449 yards and three scores. Ian Tuffs has four catches for 112 yards and Daniel Katonka eight catches for 54 yards and two scores.

Brown said he’s been pleased with the play of his veteran and physical offensive line of center Logan Eisaman, right guard Jackson Barton, left guard Joe Dolinski, left tackle Ethan Shaw and right tackle Will Nelson.

“These guys have improved so much,” Brown said. “They are strong and in great shape.”

Prady said his defense, which has played well, must continue to improve and stay focused.

He said likes the play of his linebackers Alex Tatsch, Boerio, Lakin and Fulton, and Held, Calabrese and Tim Myers up front.

Both coaches also hope their teams continue to make upward strides with conference play quickly approaching.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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