Westmoreland County high school football notebook: Playoff berth not enough for Ligonier Valley

Thursday, November 3, 2022 | 9:01 AM

Inclusion is no longer a goal for Ligonier Valley, which has warmed up to the WPIAL after rejoining District 7 in 2020.

The team clearly looks like it belongs here.

What the Rams want now is postseason success to follow their torrid runs through District 6. For years, playoff time is when the Rams shined brightest.

The Rams (7-3) will get another shot at their first WPIAL football playoff win Friday night when they take on Western Beaver (7-3) at 7 p.m. at Offutt Field in downtown Greensburg in a Class 2A first-round game.

The Rams made the playoffs last year but lost after a lengthy trip to South Side Beaver, 34-14.

Now the “home” team, Ligonier Valley is focused on making history.

The WPIAL tries to get playoff games on turf fields. Weller Field, the Rams’ home stadium, has grass, and the WPIAL opted to move the game to a nearby field.

“Getting the first playoff win in the WPIAL would be huge for us as a program and as a class,” senior running back Haden Sierocky said. “It (stinks) because we have to play at Greensburg Salem and can’t play at Weller Field, but we practice hard and follow the coaches’ gameplan and that will be our key to success.”

The Rams are 5-0 on the road this season.

Ligonier Valley went 15-13 in the District 6 postseason over a 50-year span but was 10-2 from 2016-19 with two district titles.

The Rams also made the PIAA playoffs twice after four straight trips to the D-6 title game.

Ligonier Valley merged with Laurel Valley in 2010 to form one entity.

The Rams last played in the WPIAL in the late 1960s before returning three years ago.

Southmoreland also is seeking its first playoff win, and Latrobe has only one “postseason” win in school history, the 1968 WPIAL championship victory over Kiski Area.

Ligonier Valley has familiarity with Offutt Field. The Rams practiced there for playoff games in 2016, ‘17, ‘and 18. They played a first-round game there in 2019.

Western Beaver has a co-op with Lincoln Park.

One, not done

Three area rookie coaches led their teams to the playoffs in their first try.

Ron Prady (Latrobe), Tim Bukowski (Southmoreland) and Tom Paulone (Jeannette) will guide their players in the WPIAL postseason for the first time as head coaches.

Tarabrella offered

Penn-Trafford senior Daniel Tarabrella picked up another Division I FCS scholarship offer.

Robert Morris extended an offer to Tarabrella, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior wide receiver and outside linebacker who also has offers from Georgetown, Duquesne and St. Francis (Pa.).

Gracious hosts

Norwin will be the site of the WPIAL Class 5A and 6A championships at noon and 6 p.m. on Nov. 19, but Knights Stadium also will host a first-round game Friday night.

Washington and Serra Catholic will play their 2A opener at 7 p.m. in North Huntingdon.

Thousand Island

Cody Rubrecht did something very few players have done.

Last year, the Greensburg Salem standout had a 1,000-yard season as a wide receiver. He led the WPIAL in receptions during the regular season.

He moved to quarterback for his senior season and did something even more impressive. He rushed and passed for over 1,000 yards.

Rubrecht announced this week he has an opportunity to play at Division I FCS Davidson of the Pioneer League.

Phillips injury

Hempfield senior quarterback Jake Phillips hopes to begin throwing again over the next couple of weeks as he prepares for college football.

His injury played a part in the derailment of the Spartans’ best start (5-0) since 1971. The team went 1-4 without him.

Phillips revealed he broke his collarbone on the fifth offensive play against Gateway, when the Spartans suffered a crushing, 60-7 loss.

He was set to miss eight weeks, ending his season. Phillips said he does not need surgery.

Cal pals

A couple of former Cal (Pa.) football teammates will watch their sons compete against each other Friday night.

Mt. Pleasant junior running back Jackson Hutter and freshman Brody Jackson will play against East Allegheny and freshman Prince Tarrant in a WPIAL 3A first round game at Mt. Pleasant.

Their fathers — Aaron Hutter and Brian Tarrant — were college teammates in the late 1990s. Tarrant is now an assistant at Cal (Pa.).

Extra points

Class A No. 1 seed Belle Vernon is off until next Friday and will play the winner of No. 9 East Allegheny and No. 8 Mt. Pleasant. … Latrobe visits Highlands on Friday in the Class 4A first round. Highlands first-year coach Matt Bonislawski played quarterback at Connecticut. … Monessen will go against Fort Cherry and quarterback Matt Sieg, who is the fifth-leading rusher in the WPIAL with 1,404 yards and 24 touchdowns. … Latrobe’s Robby Fulton finished as the Westmoreland County rushing champion for the regular season. He gained 1,471 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. The yardage mark is a Latrobe single-season record.

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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