Latrobe looks to repeat rare postseason appearance

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Friday, August 16, 2019 | 10:22 PM


Standing on the edge of a field at the athletics complex behind Latrobe High School, Wildcats football coach Jason Marucco couldn’t help but wonder what was in store for the upcoming season.

So many questions.

Will Latrobe repeat a trip to the WPIAL playoffs, where it made a return in 2018 for the first time in nine years? Who will replace the Wildcats’ fine trio of outgoing, two-way linemen, led by East Carolina recruit Trent Holler? Can his team muster enough to pull off a surprise victory or two?

“We’ve put together back-to-back four-win seasons, and that hasn’t happened here in a long time,” said Marucco, a former Latrobe assistant, who is entering his sixth year as head coach at his alma mater, recognized more often in recent years for success in sports other than football.

For instance, the Latrobe baseball team won a PIAA championship in 2017, and the boys basketball team at various times has been ranked No. 1 in Class 6A, the WPIAL’s highest classification.

“Qualifying for the postseason (in football after the long absence) was a big step, a big shot in the arm,” Marucco said.

With Latrobe High School as the backdrop, a record number of schools showcased their skill-position players in July at the annual Westmoreland County Coaches Association 7-on-7 tournament at the school’s athletics complex.

Marucco coached his guys against some top WPIAL programs from all classifications, several of whom Class 5A Latrobe is scheduled to square off against in the regular season.

Latrobe will kick off its schedule Aug. 23 at Class 3A Derry in a rivalry of neighboring schools. Following a four-year break in the series, the Wildcats have not beaten the Trojans in three games since it resumed in 2016.

“We’ll continue to take the practice field every day with the mindset of improving every repetition that we take to make ourselves better, and ultimately to make our football team better,” Marucco said.

Latrobe returns 12 players with significant game experience from a 4-7 team (3-5 5A Foothills).

The Wildcats were thumped in their return to the WPIAL playoffs, falling to eventual PIAA champion Penn Hills, 55-7.

Marucco said having 10 returning starters, including two-way players Tucker Knupp (tight end/linebacker), Logan Gustafson (running back/safety) and Kameron Stevens (wide receiver/safety), gives Latrobe a veteran presence against a conference schedule that includes other returning playoff teams in Gateway, Penn-Trafford, McKeesport and Franklin Regional.

Gateway is coming off a 12-1 season behind rising junior linebacker/running back Derrick Davis, who already has multiple Division I scholarship offers, including from Alabama and Clemson, last season’s national championship participants.

But, for Marucco at Latrobe, there is the matter of finding suitable replacements for, among others, Holler, an all-state player as a center, who also starred at defensive end; offensive linemen/defensive ends Trey Sweeney and Caleb Domenick; slotback/safety Zakharee Williams, the team’s leading receiver with more than 1,000 all-purpose yards; and kicker/punter Nate Clair.

“Qualifying for the playoffs was a natural progression from where we were and what we’re trying to do,” Marucco said. “While we have 10 seniors coming back, we’ve got a group of guys this season who are a little younger, but we’ve all been together in the program from Day 1.”

Other returning starters are quarterback Branden Crosby, running back A.J. Rock, offensive tackle Tyler Ross and cornerback Dakota Morrison.

Marucco particularly likes the depth at his team’s skill positions and conceded the Wildcats offensive line could be a weak link heading into the year. Yet, he has been encouraged.

“The kids know what we expect, which helps things flow a little easier,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to play faster and practice faster. It gives us a chance to put ourselves in a position to be successful. Each team is different, but it does certainly allow you to be somewhat ahead of the game.”

Schedule

Coach: Jason Marucco

2018 record: 4-7, 3-4

All-time record: 450-530-38

Date, Opponent, Time

8.23, at Derry, 7

8.30, Penn Hills, 7

9.6, at Franklin Regional*, 7

9.13, Gateway*, 7

9.20, at Connellsville*, 7

9.27, at McKeesport*, 7

10.4, Penn-Trafford*, 7

10.11, Plum*, 7

10.18, at Midd-West, 7:30

10.25, Highlands, 7

*Class 5A Foothills Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Branden Crosby

61-142, 967 yards, 8 TDs

Receiving: Zakharee Williams*

21-466 yards, 14 TDs

Rushing: A.J. Rock

133-643 yards, 3 TDs

*Graduated

Latrobe roster

No., Name, Pos., Ht./Wt., Cl.

2, Landan Carns, QB/S, 5-10/160, Jr.

4, Corey Boerio, TE/LB, 5-11/180, Fr.

6, Tucker Knupp, TE/LB, 6-0/195, Jr.

8, Wyatt Schmucker, RB/LB, 5-9/155, Fr.

10, Drake Clayton, RB/LB, 5-7/160, So.

12, Bobby Fetter, QB/CB, 5-10/160, So.

14, Branden Crosby, QB/CB, 5-11/160, Sr.

15, Kameron Stevens, WR/S, 5-11/155, Sr.

17, Mason Krinock, WR/S, 5-7/155, So.

18, Dominic Flenniken, SB/CB, 5-5/120, Fr.

20, Conor Johnson, RB/CB, 5-7/145, So.

21, Garrett Matey, RB/S, 5-8/180, So.

22, Logan Gustafson, RB/CB, 5-8/140, Jr.

23, Marco Mongelluzzo, WR/CB, 5-10/140, So.

24, Connor Lakin, QB/CB, 5-9/150, Fr.

25, Robbie Lauffer, K, 6-0/205, Sr.

26, Dylan Gustafson, RB/S, 5-9/150, Jr.

27, Dakota Morrison, SB/CB, 5-7/155, Sr.

28, A.J. Rock, RB/S, 5-8/170, Sr.

30, Raymon Henderson, SB/CB, 5-5/150, Jr.

32, Kyle Brewer, SB/LB, 5-8/150, So.

33, Ryan Steffey, SB/LB, 5-8/155, Fr.

34, Nate Stemmerich, WR/CB, 5-7/145, Jr.

35, Luke Zylka, WR/CB, 5-7/155, Jr.

36, Declan Smith, RB/S, 5-5/150, Fr.

37, Joe Henderson, WR/CB, 5-5/135, Fr.

38, Mitch Tryon, RB/LB, 5-8/160, Sr.

39, Owen Ortiz, TE/LB, 5-5/145, Fr.

43, Ian Smith, WR/CB, 5-5/125, Fr.

44, Brayen Hill, WR/S, 6-0/145, Fr.

45, Jesse Biller, TE/LB, 5-9/145, Fr.

46, Kollin Stevens, WR/S, 5-5/135, Fr.

50, Dan Calabrace, C/DT, 5-6/145, Fr.

52, Merle Musick, G/DE, 5-9/155, Sr.

53, Jacob Brisky, T/DE, 6-2/180, So.

54, Payton Hrehovchak, G/DE, 5-10/180, Jr.

55, Alex Aiello, C/DT, 5-7/185, Jr.

56, Josh Brown, G/DE, 5-8/180, So.

58, Sam Miller, OT/DT, 5-10/255, So.

60, John McHenry, OT/DT, 6-0/255, Jr.

62, Wyatt Held, G/DT, 6-0/205, Fr.

66, Jacob Hixson, T/DE, 6-2/185, Fr.

68, Clayton Weaver, TE/DE, 6-4/175, Fr.

71, Chase Siko, OT/DT, 6-0/255, Fr.

72, Tyler Ross, T/DE, 6-1/220, Sr.

73, Isaac Landry, G/DT, 5-10/225, Jr.

74, Aidan Sweeney, WR/LB, 5-6/140, So.

78, Erick Landry, G/DE, 5-7/165, So.

79, Tyler Lynch, G/DE, 5-11/200, So.

81, Jacob Withrow, WR/CB, 5-9/155, So.

82, Bryce Feathers, WR/CB, 6-4/155, Sr.

84, Aaron Bradley, WR/CB, 5-1/100, So.

85, Enzo Rodi, TE/S, 6-0/166, So.

89, JJ Sweeney, WR/CB, 5-6/125, So.

90, Ray Dupilka, TE/DE, 5-11/170, Fr.

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