Latrobe football team earns long-awaited 7-on-7 win on its home field
Thursday, July 21, 2022 | 9:03 PM
As Penn-Trafford’s final deep pass attempt sailed out of the end zone and fell incomplete, players from Latrobe jumped into each other’s arms and bounced around in a sudden swell of excitement.
For once, the Wildcats got to celebrate on their home field, which hosted the county 7-on-7 passing tournament for a fifth straight time.
And first-year coach Ron Prady could not have scripted it any better.
The former Penn-Trafford assistant, who won WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A championships with the Warriors last season, matched skill players and routes with opposing coach John Ruane in the final before the Wildcats settled on a 15-9 victory Thursday to claim the 11th Westmoreland County Coaches Association Larry Sellitto Memorial 7-on-7 Championship.
As bittersweet as it felt, Prady was thrilled to see his team have some success, especially against a team that makes the finals as often as Penn-Trafford. Maybe not as thrilled, though, as longtime equipment manager Jim Feather, who shared in the post-game celebration and didn’t stop smiling until he finally left Rossi Field, but a sign of improvement nonetheless.
There are positive vibes these days inside the Arnold Palmer Field House.
“I want to win for (Feather) as much as anybody here,” said Prady, a math teacher at Latrobe. “This program wants to win again. We’ve never won a playoff game here.”
The Wildcats, who will drop to Class 4A this season, were tired of watching other teams win on their turf in the annual passing tournament.
“You don’t put a ton of stock in 7-on-7s, but it’s great to see our kids compete,” Prady said. “The competition is great for them. They have been putting in the work since March. This is far from the ultimate goal, but it builds our kids’ confidence. They competed their butts off.”
Prady, nicknamed “Boomer,” saw rising junior JaTawn Williams make two key pass break-ups in the “Boomer Bowl,” the second on a long second-down toss from 6-foot-3, 250-pound Warriors quarterback Conlan Greene, a Temple recruit as a defensive lineman who looked comfortable under center.
Penn-Trafford senior Tommy Kalkstein had just intercepted a pass to give the Warriors the ball back with under five minutes to play. The turnover cut the deficit to 15-9.
After Williams’ break-up, Greene tried a couple of heaves on third and fourth down but could not connect.
“We came here to compete,” Williams said. “It feels good to win it all. We all had good communication today and played well as a team.”
Senior Kollin Stevens, Williams and senior tight end Corey Boerio had touchdown catches from sophomore quarterback John Wetzel, and several defensive players were in the right spots for the Wildcats.
But who was the MVP for Latrobe, which finished 6-0 en route to its first county title?
“All of us were,” Williams said.
The final was a rematch of the 2014 final when Penn-Trafford beat Latrobe, 21-7.
Penn-Trafford, which finished 5-1, has made the county finals nine times in the event’s 11 years.
“There is some nostalgia to this win,” Prady said. “I respect the hell out of that program (at Penn-Trafford). This win is nothing to sneeze at. They’re the model program in the county. Those guys just won a state championship.”
The Warriors have five titles, the last coming in 2018.
“They made more plays than we did,” Ruane said of Latrobe. “They did a nice job taking away our windows. They are well-coached. Boomer is going to do some good things here.”
Wetzel, the son of Latrobe boys basketball coach Brad Wetzel, threw scoring passes in the final to junior Ben Stratton and Boerio — on a shovel pass. Stratton and sophomore Jack Drnevich caught conversion passes, the latter to make it 14-6.
Kalkstein pulled in a 40-yard bomb from Greene to cut it to 7-6.
Williams batted away a pass intended for senior Jake Otto after the Wildcats went up by eight. The defensive stop was worth a point.
Latrobe won Pool A with five wins, including 15-14 over two-time defending champion Norwin, which finished 4-1 and tied with Greensburg Central Catholic for second in Pool A.
Norwin and Hempfield (2-3) also are changing classifications with both dropping to Class 5A.
The first win of the day for the Wildcats spurred on early confidence.
Sophomore Alex Tatsch had a key interception in the victory.
Latrobe also squeezed past Valley, 18-17, and defeated Ligonier Valley (21-6), Burrell (28-1), and
“That was a great start for us,” Prady said of the Norwin game. “It was a back-and-forth game.”
Penn-Trafford defeated Kiski Area, 27-13, to hand the Cavaliers their first loss and advance to the final.
“It’s nice to come out here and see the kids get some reps,” Kiski Area coach Sam Albert said. “You like to see some competition. It all changes when the pads go in, but this is a nice event.”
The Warriors also scored convicing wins over Yough (23-6), Mt. Pleasant (32-14), Derry (25-6) and Jeannette (19-1).
Greensburg Salem and Mt. Pleasant went 3-2 on the day.
Penn-Trafford, which played three quarterbacks — Greene, Kalkstein and sophomore Jonny Lovre — has a number of key players back as it prepares to make a run at a repeat.
“We got in some work,” Ruane said. “Now we’re ready for real football.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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