Latrobe looks to get back to postseason, take next step

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Thursday, September 3, 2020 | 10:40 PM


After reaching the WPIAL playoffs two years in a row on the heels of an eight-year drought, Latrobe feels a sense of accomplishment.

But don’t expect the Wildcats to be satisfied. Resting on their laurels won’t sit well with the coaching staff.

“You can’t just be satisfied with getting there,” seventh-year coach Jason Marucco said. “When you get there, you want to do something. You want to win a playoff game.”

Penn Hills bounced the Wildcats handily in the first round the last two seasons, but the team is eager to chase another berth in a stacked WPIAL Class 5A classification.

“We’ll have one of our more experienced groups going into a season,” Marucco said. “A lot of guys with valuable varsity experience.”

For instance, four spots needed to be filled along the offensive line last summer. This time, just one vacancy existed up front heading into training camp in what has been an unsteady, four-plus-month stretch for schools that have tried to cope with coronavirus restrictions.

Marucco said it has been mostly business as usual in his program.

“The kids have been working hard, and they are focused,” the coach said.

One experienced player who will be counted on heavily is senior Tucker Knupp, a tight end and linebacker who has been tabbed a team captain as a junior.

“He does so many little things for us that are so important,” Marucco said. “He lines up our defense and is just an unselfish player.”

A position battle to watch is at quarterback where incumbent junior Bobby Fetter is competing with senior Landan Carns, who missed last season with a shoulder injury and is returning from a torn ACL in baseball.

“Bobby did a great job for us,” Marucco said. “They are both the type of athletes you want to get on the field. I don’t buy (the notion) that if you have two quarterbacks you don’t have one (good one).”

The line has more cohesiveness and will see the return of senior Payton Hrehovchak at right guard, senior Alex Aiello at center, junior Tyler Lynch at left guard and senior Isaac Landry at right tackle.

Juniors Jacob Brisky and Sam Miller were in line to play left tackle.

Hrehovchak also has started at defensive end.

Linebacker looks to be a strong point in the Wildcats’ base 4-3 defense, led by Knupp, who set the program single-season mark for tackles last season with 110.

Others include senior Luke Zylka, and juniors Drake Clayton and Kyle Brewer.

Zylka returned from injury to have a strong second half last season.

Seniors Dylan Gustafson, Nathan Stemmerich and Raymon Henderson return in the secondary.

Among the newcomers to watch are junior Marco Mongelluzzo (WR/DB), sophomore Brayen Hill (WR/S), junior Eric Landry (C/OG), junior Josh Brown (OG/DE), sophomore Corey Boerio (TE/LB), and junior Enzo Rodi (TE/LB).

“Our guys are pretty locked into the system we run, but we’re willing to make tweaks here and there,” Marucco said. “We rushed the ball about as well since (the coaches) have been here.

“We have to do a little better with our accuracy in the passing game.”

Schedule

Coach: Jason Marucco

2019 record: 5-6, 2-4 in Class 5A Big East Conference

All-time record: 455-536-38

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, at Penn-Trafford*, 7:30

9.18, at Mt. Pleasant, 7

10.2, Gateway*, 7

10.9, at Connellsville*, 7

10.16, at Franklin Regional*, 7

10.23, Woodland Hills*, 7

*Class 5A Big East Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Bobby Fetter

31-61, 402 yards, 1 TD

Receiving: Kam Stevens*

20-187 yards, 1 TD

Rushing: Logan Gustafson*

82-535 yards, 2 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• Nineteen lettermen return with varsity game experience.

• Latrobe won a WPIAL title in 1968, but that team did not technically make the playoffs. Back then, conference champs went straight to the WPIAL finals.

• Star return specialist and all-conference receiver/safety Kam Stevens, who had four kick return touchdowns and a punt return for a score — all over 90 yards — has joined the track and field program at St. Francis (Pa.).

• The Wildcats have given up at least 28 points per game for six straight seasons, including 31.5 last year.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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