Westmoreland County H.S. football notebook: Playoff berth means progress for Latrobe

Thursday, October 27, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Latrobe quickly put a loss to No. 2 McKeesport in the past and clung to perspective with a trip to the WPIAL playoffs clinched.

The Wildcats (5-4) will head to the postseason for just the third time since 2003, secure in an improved mindset and culture reset in the program.

“I don’t even know if we’ll go back and watch this one,” first-year coach Ron Prady said of a 54-14 loss to the Tigers last week. “We’re putting it behind us. We’re moving on.”

Latrobe won just three games last year and has not had a winning season since 2011 (5-4). It can get to six wins if it can take care of Butler on Friday night.

“The kids have worked hard and bought in,” Prady said. “We’ve made some progress here. They want to turn it around.”

The 2001 team is the benchmark for this year’s Wildcats. That squad went 7-3. No Latrobe team since then has won more than five games in a season.

“One of our goals was to get into the playoffs,” Prady said. “Now we want to win in the playoffs.

“You’re guaranteed 10 games. But you have to earn the 11th.”

Latrobe has won three of its last four games and played close games against perennial power Thomas Jefferson (a 31-21 loss) and Laurel Highlands (a 10-7 loss).

The Wildcats also beat 5A Franklin Regional, 36-33, in overtime.

Pairings show

The WPIAL will release playoff pairings Saturday, and TribLive HSSN will be the exclusive place to see the brackets.

The pairings show webcast will begin at 2 p.m. here.

Westmoreland teams in the playoffs are Franklin Regional in 5A; Latrobe in 4A; Belle Vernon, Mt. Pleasant and Southmoreland in 3A; Ligonier Valley and Burrell in 2A; and Greensburg Central Catholic, Jeannette and Monessen in A.

Leopards ‘D’

As opponents can attest, Belle Vernon is really good offensively again. The Leopards average 279 yards and 35.6 points per game.

But how about the defense?

The unheralded unit has given up just 69 points, fewest in Class 3A and fourth fewest in the WPIAL.

The team has 32 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 10 interceptions and six fumble recoveries.

“To be honest, our defense has been the anchor of our team,” Leopards coach Matt Humbert said.

Belle Vernon’s defense allowed seven points against McKeesport, held Penn-Trafford to 14 and posted shutouts against South Allegheny and Southmoreland.

“The defense has done a great job all year,” Humbert said. “Our linebacker and defensive back play has been formidable and where we returned many starters from last year.”

Humbert said he has been particularly impressed with defensive end Braden Laux, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound junior who also plays quarterback for the Leopards (6-2).

“He is turning into one of the best D-ends in the conference,” Humbert said.

Nine players have 20 or more tackles, led by junior Adam LaCarte with 41.

Laux leads the team with four sacks. He has 20 tackles.

National honor for Keffer

SBLive Pennsylvania named Southmoreland junior wide receiver Ty Keffer its high school athlete of the week (Oct. 9-15).

Keffer caught the second-most touchdown passes in state history (6) in a 42-21 victory over Greensburg Salem.

Keffer had nine receptions for 160 yards and also intercepted two passes.

Quarterback Kadin Keefer threw all six scores to his favorite wideout and finished 12 of 23 for 231 yards.

Keffer topped Hunter Hohman of Grove City and Quinton Martin of Belle Vernon for the award in an online vote.

Fralic award time

Organizers are seeking nominations for the fourth Bill Fralic Memorial Award for the WPIAL’s top offensive lineman.

A finalist is selected from each of the six classifications, and a committee selects one winner in the namesake of Fralic, the former Penn Hills, Pitt and NFL star lineman.

Anyone can nominate a player but must get a coach’s recommendation for the player to be eligible for consideration.

The annual ceremony will be in December at Longue Vue Club in Verona.

Nomination forms can be found at fralic-foundation.org.

Past winners are Logan Danielson of Thomas Jefferson, Miguel Jackson of Pine-Richland and Sean FitzSimmons of Central Valley.

Extra points

Three area teams held their ground in the newest TribLive HSSN rankings. Franklin Regional is No. 4 in Class 5A, while Belle Vernon (3A) and Greensburg Central Catholic (A) remained at No. 3. … Belle Vernon remained No. 5 in the 3A state rankings behind Wyomissing, Danville, Loyalsock and Elizabeth Forward. … GCC’s Tyree Turner is now the leading passer in Westmoreland County. He is 69 of 112 for 1,315 yards and 17 TDs. … Hempfield senior tight end and linebacker Anthony Vallano has an offer to play at Grove City.

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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