Latrobe ringing in season with new coach, different outlook

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Sunday, July 24, 2022 | 4:53 PM


Ron Prady has not shown his players the bling.

The bulky, diamond-studded championship ring he earned as an assistant at Penn-Trafford last season hasn’t been passed around the locker room or tried on by any players at Latrobe, where Prady is a first-year head coach.

It’s not Prady’s style to show off or brag, but he lights up when he talks about the championship-winning Warriors.

He catches himself, however, when he says “we” and “us” and quickly audibles to “them.”

“We” and “us” now mean Latrobe, where his allegiance now lies.

“I didn’t bring it in,” Prady said of the oversized ring. “But the kids are curious and asking questions. They want to know how we did things and how we won over there.”

The Wildcats will get a good feel for the culture at Penn-Trafford vicariously through Prady, who was on staff with the Warriors for 10 years and coached the linebackers last season when the team won WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A titles.

“The kids are responding; The buy-in has been great,” said Prady, a 1990 Penn-Trafford graduate. “Our seniors are stepping up and becoming leaders. At P-T, it’s a culture thing. I am not John (Ruane), and I am not trying to be John. But I’d be crazy to not take on the things we did and apply them here. The concepts that made us successful are tried and true.

“The people of that township have been great.”

The Wildcats showed signs of progress by winning the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Larry Sellitto 7-on-7 passing tournament last week at Latrobe. They went 6-0, getting past — of all teams — Penn-Trafford in the final, 15-9.

“It’s a good start but, but it’s not the ultimate goal,” Prady said.

Ruane was impressed by Latrobe’s effort in the county tournament. He expects Prady to bring change to the Wildcats.

“He’s a great person and a great leader,” Ruane said. “He has the biggest personality in the township. Latrobe is getting a good one. Our kids loved lining up and playing for him.”

Latrobe has one WPIAL playoff win in school history, a 19-7 victory over Kiski in the 1968 championship.

Nicknamed “Boomer” since he was a tiny toddler — he said when he was learning to walk, he would fall and repeatedly say, “boom” — Prady is a longtime geometry teacher at Latrobe so he is familiar with many of the players. Therefore, he wants to see his students finally have some success on the football field.

Latrobe, while more competitive in recent years, is 1-10 all-time in the postseason. The Wildcats were 3-7 last year, Jason Marucco’s final season as coach before his resignation in December.

Marucco coached for eight seasons and had a record of 20-56 with two WPIAL playoff appearances.

Latrobe winning again: That has a nice ring to it, too.

“It’s a mental thing,” Prady said. “It’s about toughness and playing disciplined and together. I think we can win some games this year.”

A drop in classification seems to jibe nicely with the change-is-in-the-air theme at Latrobe.

The Wildcats will move to Class 4A after playing the past six years in 5A. They will be in the Big Seven Conference with an interesting mix of teams: Connellsville, Laurel Highlands, McKeesport, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson and Trinity.

A trademark visor is familiar to Prady. His schedule, not so much.

“It will be new, and we don’t have the familiarity with a lot of the teams,” Prady said. “But it is a good year for the class change. Who knows, maybe it will help make the transition easier.”

Expect to see shades of Penn-Trafford’s offense and defense in the Wildcats. The players seem to have embraced Prady and his system.

“He makes you want to compete for him,” senior tight end/linebacker Corey Boerio said. “As soon as he came in, we were pumped up. He brings that family atmosphere that was kind of missing. We need that closeness and chemistry so we can compete late in games.”

Prady, who has 59 players signed up, has not been a head coach since 2004 when he led Caroline County, a 3A high school in Milford, Va. He got his start at Imperial Unified School in San Diego, Calif., after finishing college at Thiel.

Prady also was an offensive line coach at Franklin Regional under Greg Botta and served briefly as an assistant at Latrobe in the mid 2000s.

The new coach’s staff will also include Bob Armstrong, Josh Hammack, Lou Keyser, Tom McIntyre, Chad Schmeling, Tom Wilkins, and John Yester.

Prady also was an assistant softball coach at Penn-Trafford and won a PIAA Class 5A title in 2019.

His wife, Liz, teaches English at Latrobe.

Jake, their son, is a grad assistant on the West Virginia football staff.

Daughter Allie, a former standout in softball and basketball at Penn-Trafford, is transferring from Fairmont State to Saint Vincent. She played softball last season as a freshman at Fairmont State.

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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