Latrobe feasts on Connellsville turnovers

Friday, September 20, 2019 | 10:42 PM

Both the Connellsville and Latrobe football teams knew that a win on Friday night was vital to stay on the fringe of the playoff picture in Section 2-5A. With that in mind, both teams played with desperation and either team could have walked out of Connellsville Stadium with an all-important victory.

However, it was Latrobe that took advantage of three costly Connellsville turnovers and held on for a key 34-27 victory.

“That’s been a focal point for us,” Latrobe coach Jason Marucco said. “Anytime the defense creates turnovers, it’s going to put you in a good position.”

Latrobe scored 19 points off of turnovers in the first half, which was the difference in the game.

“We had them down 14-0 and were going in for another score, which could have been a dagger,” Connellsville coach Marko Thomas said. “But then things happened and we have to be able to overcome adversity.”

In the early part of the game, it was Latrobe facing adversity as the Falcons jumped out to a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter. Ahmad Hooper started what turned out to be a huge game for himself when he scored on a 26-yard run on Connellsville’s first series. On Connellsville’s next possession, Hooper raced down the left sideline for a 92-yard touchdown to make it 14-0.

Hooper finished with nine carries for 139 yards. He also had two receptions for 75 yards and a score as part of a four-touchdown night. All this, and he was under the weather.

“He played sick,” Thomas said. “He was throwing up in the first half and I felt bad keeping him out there. But he didn’t want to come off the field. He showed a lot of heart and he gave us a huge spark.”

The Falcons were in position to extend their lead when they marched into Latrobe territory on their third series of the game. However, Latrobe recovered a fumble, which swung momentum.

Latrobe converted on the turnover when Kameron Stevens scored on an 18-yard run in the second quarter. The Wildcats struck again when Raymon Henderson intercepted a pass and returned it 32 yards for a score. Then a pick by Logan Gustafson allowed the Wildcats to take over at the Connellsville 1-yard line. Quarterback Bobby Fetter scored on a short run to give Latrobe a 19-14 lead.

Before the half was over, the Falcons struck again when Hooper caught a short swing pass from Josh Maher and eluded all tacklers on his way to a 70-yard score with just 36 seconds left in the second quarter. Connellsville held a 20-19 lead at the half.

Leading by a point, the Falcons couldn’t generate much in the third quarter and Latrobe countered with a pair of scores. Fetter scored on a 39-yard run and Gustafson hit paydirt on a 1-yard run to give Latrobe a 34-19 lead.

Gustafson finished with 18 carries for 182 yards while Fetter racked up 145 yards on 19 carries for the Wildcats (2-3, 1-2).

Down by two scores, the Falcons (1-4, 0-4) didn’t quit. Instead, they managed to claw to within one score midway through the fourth quarter when Hooper scored on a 5-yard run.

The Falcons made a defensive stand to get the ball back late in the game, but their attempt to tie the score in the final two minutes came up short in their own territory and the Wildcats left the field with the hard-earned win.

“It would have been easy for us to pack it in (down by two touchdowns) early,” Marucco said. “But we didn’t do that and I’m really proud of them. Connellsville played very hard, but we fought the whole way.”

For the Falcons, it was a tough loss, considering it was a game they could have easily won had it not been for turnovers and costly penalties. In fact, Hooper had a touchdown called back, making three scores overturned on penalties for Connellsville in the last two games.

“I feel bad for them that they lost this game,” Thomas said. “They fought to the end. We just made more mistakes than they did.”

Check out an archived broadcast of this game on the TribLive High School Sports Network.

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