Kiski Area remains unbeaten, gets past Latrobe

Friday, September 10, 2021 | 10:51 PM

Kiski Area and Latrobe conducted a football staredown, trading touchdowns nearly all night long.

Until Latrobe flinched.

Chad Hepler, picking up the slack when starter Brock Wilkins went down early with an injury, rushed for 136 yards and a key 30-yard touchdown late, and Logan Johnson passed for 171 yards and scored the go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter as visiting Kiski Area outlasted Latrobe, 35-27, in a Class 5A nonconference game Friday night to remain unbeaten.

“Really, really proud of those kids,” Kiski Area coach Sam Albert said. “Really amazing their drive. We made mistake after mistake and there were times we could have folded up, but they just kept it going. Can’t say enough. Latrobe is fast and aggressive and very good.”

The Wildcats played the game without regular quarterback Bobby Fetter, who sat out with an injured shoulder from the previous game, another close loss at Norwin a week ago.

“I love our effort and intensity,” Latrobe coach Jason Marucco said. “But …”

Marucco paused to gather his thoughts. It was a tough way to lose, he seemed to say.

“We have to find a better way to execute when the game is on the line.”

Brayden Reott started in place of Fetter at quarterback for Latrobe and split time with Corey Boerio under center. The duo combined to pass for 123 yards.

Kiski Area led at halftime, 21-19, before both teams failed to reach the end zone in the third quarter.

But it was a different story in the fourth.

On the first play of the quarter, Latrobe took a 27-21 lead on a 6-yard touchdown run by Kyle Brewer and a 2-point conversion pass from Boerio to Brewer. The touchdown capped a 6-play, 63-yard drive.

Kiski Area (3-0) then put together the final two touchdowns within a span of less than 2 minutes, capitalizing on Latrobe turnovers.

Johnson rushed 7 yards for a touchdown after Latrobe (1-2) was called for pass interference, giving Kiski Area a 28-27 edge.

Dominic Dininno’s interception with 2 minutes, 42 seconds left set up Hepler’s 30-yard touchdown run to make it 35-27.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Wilkins, who is drawing Division I attention, left with a neck injury in the first quarter but returned to play defense at inside linebacker.

“Without him on defense,” Albert said, “we have a problem.”

The teams traded touchdowns in the first half, Latrobe scoring first just 2 minutes, 18 seconds into the game on Brewer’s 67-yard touchdown run for a 6-0 Wildcats lead after the extra-point attempt was blocked.

Kiski Area responded with 3:47 left in the first quarter on Mathew Hilty’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Johnson, giving the a 7-6 edge. The play followed Carter Dilts’ interception for the Cavaliers on the previous snap.

Drake Clayton’s 4-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter put Latrobe back in front, 13-7 before Hepler raced 48 yards for a Kiski Area TD less than 2 minutes later to push the Cavaliers ahead, 14-13.

Then, it was Latrobe’s turn to take the lead as Brewer caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Corey Boerio, giving the Wildcats the advantage, 19-14, despite a failed 2-point run conversion.

Kiski Area got the last say in the first half when Johnson scored on a 6-yard TD run with 4:57 left to take a 21-19 lead at the break.

Isaiah Gonzalez’s interception at the Kiski Area 4 stopped a Latrobe drive with 1:27 remaining and preserved the Cavaliers’ slim two-point lead.

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