Latrobe, Ligonier Valley celebrate long-awaited WPIAL playoff victories

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Saturday, November 5, 2022 | 4:23 PM


As he walked off the practice field one day last week, Latrobe football coach Ron Prady was asked if he thought his team had a chance against higher-seeded Highlands in the first round of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs.

“I do,” he said with a sly smile. “Our kids have been working hard. They believe they can win. I think we can do it.”

Prady had a look in his eye — the same look his players had Friday night in a 28-21 win over the sixth-seeded Golden Rams in overtime.

Like the coach’s nickname, this was a real Boomer.

It was the first playoff win for the Wildcats since 1968, when they beat Kiski Area, 19-7, to win the WPIAL championship at Forbes Field.

Back then, teams played a regular season, and the top two teams in each class based on Gardner Points played for the title.

“Unbelievable,” Prady said. “I am so happy for the guys.”

The win prevented a near wipeout of Westmoreland County teams in the first round.

Ten local teams opened the postseason, and only two advanced. The other was Ligonier Valley, which held back Western Beaver, 27-20, in a Class 2A opener for its first playoff win in the WPIAL.

A pair of No. 3 seeds were upset: Franklin Regional lost to Woodland Hills, 21-0, in Class 5A; and Greensburg Central Catholic was stunned by Rochester, 36-15.

Class 3A No. 1 seed Belle Vernon (7-2) opens play in the quarterfinals next week.

Who thought Latrobe would be one of the teams standing after the first round?

A program that had fallen into disrepair had just two playoff appearances since 2003 and had not had a winning season since 2011.

Now, Latrobe has seven wins, the most by a Wildcats team since 2001.

Robby Fulton scored on a 6-yard run in overtime, and JaTawn Williams intercepted a pass to seal the win for 11th-seeded Latrobe (7-4), which advances to play at No. 3 Thomas Jefferson (7-3), a team they hung with before losing 31-21 during the regular season.

Latrobe had lost 10 straight playoff games in spotty appearances since ‘68. Prady is the ninth coach since then to lead the Wildcats.

Ligonier Valley celebrated with chants of “We are” from the stands at Offutt Field as the final horn sounded Friday night.

Haden Sierocky ran for 200 yards and four touchdowns as the Rams piled up nearly 400 yards on the ground.

Ligonier Valley returned to the WPIAL in 2020 after five decades in District 6.

“We were confident we could come in here and get the win,” Sierocky said. “I don’t feel like we’re scared of anybody.”

Like Latrobe, Ligonier Valley will face a perennial power in the quarterfinals. It will be the Rams and No. 2 Beaver Falls (9-1) next Friday at Geneva College.

“We’ll assess our injury situation and go from there,” Rams coach Roger Beitel said. “We have that first one, and we’re going to celebrate it. We’ll be ready to go next week.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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