Latrobe pulls away from Connellsville to run winning streak to 4
Friday, October 13, 2023 | 11:02 PM
Looking relaxed and satisfied, Ron Prady stood back and admired his team’s quiet celebration.
The Latrobe football coach knows all too well the feeling of success and he wants his players to experience it as well.
So far, so good.
Quarterback John Wetzel rushed for three touchdowns and passed for another, and Ja’Tawn Williams scored on a pair of long touchdowns — a 76-yard run and a 78-yard kickoff return — to lead Latrobe to a 50-28 victory over Connellsville at Latrobe Memorial Stadium.
A year after winning their first WPIAL playoff game since 1968, the Wildcats savored their fourth consecutive victory and sixth in eight games Friday night under their second-year coach, a former assistant at Penn-Trafford and part of the Warriors’ 2021 PIAA championship team.
Wetzel passed for 147 yards on 8 of 10 completions, and Brady Prohovic rushed for 101 yards for Latrobe.
The Wildcats (6-2, 4-1) figured to quickly turn their thoughts next week’s opponent, Class 4A Big Seven Conference leader McKeesport, after keeping pace with the second-ranked Tigers, a 38-28 winner over Class 5A No. 5 Gateway.
“We’re proud of what we’ve done so far,” Prady said. “We’re looking to keep it going.”
Latrobe, coming off a 7-5 record in 2022 — the most wins at the school since 1971 — is playing with a bit of chip following years of mostly failure. Wetzel, a junior, is proving to be one of the team’s leading voices.
“My coach tells me that how I play on the field is important, but that my leadership on and off the field is just as important,” he said. “If I play well and I’m not a leader, it doesn’t mean anything. I’ve got to be a leader.”
He certainly did that Friday, powering an offense that mowed down a Connellsville team that tried to stay close into the second half.
“We broke down defensively,” Connellsville tri-coach Chad Lembo said. “Latrobe didn’t punt one time. Just a lot of arm tackling. We broke down defensively and lost the momentum on offense. They got some big stops on us early and in the second half. We made some mistakes and it hurt us.”
Connellsville (4-4, 1-3) will look to rebound next week against No. 5 Thomas Jefferson.
“We’re looking for some positive improvement every year,” Lembo said. “There’s always more to improve on.”
Leading 23-14 at halftime, Latrobe pulled away in the second half.
Wetzel scored on a 1-yard run to up the margin to 29-14 before Connellsville responded on Anthony Piasecki’s 29-yard scoring pass to Jayden McBride. His two-point conversion toss to Matthew Miller pulled the Falcons within 29-22.
Latrobe scored three consecutive touchdowns to seal the decision. Williams scored his third TD on an 8-yard pass from Wetzel, then Wetzel scored on runs of 21 and 44 yards to put the Wildcats ahead, 50-22.
“We’ve got some playmakers,” Prady said. “We can put some points up. But we also held teams in our last three wins to 6, 7 and zero points. Not that we weren’t playing well on offense, but our defense led us in those games. Tonight, the offense certainly got the job done.”
Piasecki threw three touchdown passes — two to Capone Mickens of 18 and 39 yards.
Williams’ two long touchdowns sparked Latrobe to a 23-14 lead in the second quarter with the Wildcats adding Ben Bigi’s 23-yard field goal as time expired before the half.
“Latrobe is a solid team,” Lembo said. “They’re having a solid season and I hope they do well moving on.”
Wetzel got things started for Latrobe in the first quarter with a 2-yard keeper, providing the Wildcats with a 7-0 lead.
Williams raced through the Connellsville defense early in the second quarter and outran several Falcons defenders to the end zone, increasing Latrobe’s lead to 13-0.
Connellsville came back with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Piasecki to Mickens, who finished the first half with nine receptions for 140 yards.
Latrobe got the score right back as Williams responded with a 78-yard kickoff return to give the Wildcats a 20-7 advantage.
Piasecki, who threw for 153 yards in the first half, picked his way into the end zone with 53 seconds left in the second quarter to pull Connellsville within 20-14.
Wetzel then quickly moved Latrobe downfield and hooked up with Williams for a 32-yard completion to the Connellsville 6, where Williams stepped out of bounds with three seconds remaining to set up Bigi’s 23-yard field goal.
Piasecki finished with 287 yards passing and Bruce Giles rushed for 184 yards for Connellsville. Mickens wound up with 10 catches for 179 yards for the Falcons.
Under the direction of second-year tri-coaches Lembo, Jace McClean and Mick Lilley, the Falcons have made improvements in the victories column each year. Following back-to-back winless seasons in 2020 and ‘21, they won two games in 2022 and already have doubled the total this season.
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