Rodney Gallagher uses smarts to lead Laurel Highlands past Latrobe

Friday, September 23, 2022 | 10:49 PM

Rodney Gallagher: 4-star prospect, West Virginia commit, clock manager extraordinaire.

With Gallagher at the wheel guiding the offense and making plays with his arm and legs, Laurel Highlands held off Latrobe in a defensive struggle, 10-7, on Friday to spoil homecoming at Latrobe Memorial Stadium.

Gallagher, who will play wide receiver in college, threw for 120 yards and a touchdown, ran for 76 yards and drained the clock with four minutes and change before taking two kneeldowns to complete the Class 4A Big Seven Conference win.

It’s odd for Laurel Highlands to win without Gallagher getting into the end zone, but he made plays to extend drives and keep the clock moving. His football IQ was more important than his 40-yard dash time in this victory.

“Our offensive line played really well, and we got better on offense and defense tonight,” said Gallagher, who began the season at wide receiver before moving back to quarterback. “It was important to get every yard you got. It was a smashmouth game, and we had to be patient and play smart.”

He was 12 for 17 passing.

Deandre DeShields caught nine passes for 97 yards and a touchdown for Laurel Highlands (3-2, 1-1) in a game where all of the scoring came in the first half.

Latrobe moved to 2-3, 0-2 with its third straight loss.

“This is on me,” Wildcats coach Ron Prady said. “There were so many times we had them behind the sticks, but we couldn’t get (Gallagher) down. Give him credit: He gained a lot of yards with his feet. He is a smart football player.”

It was the teams’ first meeting since 1999. Latrobe leads the all-time series, 10-8, but Laurel Highlands has beaten the Wildcats six consecutive times.

“Rodney understands football,” Mustangs coach Rich Kolesar said. “We have confidence in him running the offense. We were on the same page. He was in a lot of close games last year, so he has been there before.”

No-huddle Laurel Highlands forced a punt with about four minutes to go and went into clock-killing mode.

Gallagher ran six straight times before two kneel-downs, and Latrobe could do nothing about it.

“Our defense battled all night,” Kolesar said. “We didn’t give up the big play.”

Robby Fulton ran for 130 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown for Latrobe.

“No. 3 (Fulton) is a player,” Gallagher said. “We knew we had to stop him.”

Gallagher opened the scoring for the Mustangs with a 22-yard scoring pass to the 6-foot-4 Deshields with 8:40 left in the first quarter.

Latrobe responded two minutes later on its opening possession when Fulton capped an 80-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run, and Vinny Oddo’s extra point made it 7-7.

Penalties slowed the Mustangs, who controlled time of possession in the first half. They had nine for 60 yards before the break and 13 for 95 for the game.

Latrobe’s pressure also helped to keep the score tied. Kollin Stevens had a pass breakup in the end zone on a 4th and 5, Alex Tasch had a sack and a fumble recovery and Tim Myers added a second-quarter sack with the Mustangs at the Wildcats’ 14.

Points were hard to come by as both defenses made stops.

“We didn’t think it would be a shootout,” Prady said. “But we thought we could score some points.”

Myers’ sack led to a 39-yard field goal by Harry Radcliffe, who kicked a 53-yarder earlier in the season, and Laurel Highlands took a 10-7 lead into halftime.

“He doesn’t miss many,” Kolesar said. “And we were on our fifth-string holder (Leland Layhue). He did a nice job with that snap.”

After a scoreless third quarter, Latrobe drove 79 yards in 13 plays, but Vinny Oddo missed a field goal from 33 yards.

Prady acknowledged there was a bad snap on the attempt, “But I still thought it looked good. We needed to get some points there. We made too many mistakes and couldn’t sustain drives. It’s disappointing.

“The effort isn’t a question with us. We just have to make more plays.”

Corey Boerio sacked Gallagher for a 12-yard loss, and Connor Lakin also sacked the standout quarterback in the second half.

Laurel Highlands’ losses are to Belle Vernon and McKeesport.

“We’re getting better and improving as a team,” Kolesar said.

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

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