Latrobe aims for different outcome in rematch with Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, November 9, 2022 | 5:51 PM

A lot has changed since Latrobe and Thomas Jefferson played Sept. 16.

The Jaguars prevailed 31-21 in a game Latrobe coach Ron Prady said he felt his team could have won.

“It was back-and-forth before they pulled away with a late score,” Prady said. “We played well and were in the game.”

The loss was part of a three-game losing streak for the Wildcats, who started the season 2-0. After that skid, the Wildcats righted their ship and won five of their past six games, including a 28-21 overtime win at Highlands in the opening round of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs Friday.

It was Latrobe’s first playoff victory since winning the WPIAL Class 3A championship against Kiski Area in 1968.

Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said he is not surprised Latrobe has advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals.

“Our conference is pretty good,” Cherpak said, “and Latrobe is good. (Robert) Fulton is a legit running back. We found that out in the first meeting. Ron has them playing with confidence.”

Fulton has rushed for 1,476 yards and scored 20 touchdowns.

Thomas Jefferson received a first-round bye and a third seed after it defeated McKeesport, 20-10, in the regular-season finale. The Jaguars have won four consecutive games since losing to Laurel Highlands, 31-24, on Sept. 30.

The Jaguars are led by junior quarterback Brody Evans, who has completed 134 of 221 passes for 1,857 yards and 19 touchdowns. Evans’ main targets are Sean Sullivan (43 catches for 827 yards and 11 touchdowns) and Jordan Mayer (32 catches for 371 yards and five touchdowns).

The running game is led by Elias Lippencott (141 carries for 721 yards and nine touchdowns) and Aiden Whalen (98 for 450 and seven touchdowns). Kicker Andrew Graham has made four field goals.

Prady, who was an assistant at Penn-Trafford, said Thomas Jefferson thrives this time of the season. The Jaguars have won 10 WPIAL championships, including five out of the last seven years. The last time the Jaguars didn’t qualify for the playoffs was in 1994. They’ve reached the semifinals 10 consecutive seasons and 23 of the past 24 seasons.

“Thomas Jefferson is a lot better now,” Prady said. “This is nothing new for them and is all new to us. They have a ton of experience. We were confident that we could defeat Highlands, but we’ll have to play much better to stay with Thomas Jefferson.”

The Wildcats are led by Fulton, but the senior is getting a lot of help.

Sophomore quarterback John Wetzel has become more of a threat. He has completed 42 of 71 passes for 724 yards and eight touchdowns. His main targets are Corey Boerio (10 catches for 161 yards and five touchdowns), Alex Tatsch (9 for 97) and Kollin Stevens (8 for 208 and five touchdowns).

Wetzel also has rushed for 392 yards and seven touchdowns.

“We have the program headed in the right direction,” Prady said.

Thomas Jefferson’s win against McKeesport stunned some and snapped the Tigers’ nine-game winning streak.

Cherpak said getting players healthy and making an adjustment on defense is a big reason for the team’s success.

He said middle linebacker John Janusek, defensive tackle Peyton Krueger and Mayer at defensive end have secured the middle.

“The defense has been playing really well,” Cherpak said. “After the physical battle with McKeesport, we probably needed a week to recover. We’ll see if that’s the case because I’m sure we’re going to get Latrobe’s best.”

The winner will secure a trip to the WPIAL semifinals and a meeting with the winner of No. 2 Central Valley and No. 7 Laurel Highlands.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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