Westmoreland County high school football notebook: Sophomore QB sparks Latrobe

Thursday, November 10, 2022 | 11:01 AM

When Ron Prady took over the Latrobe football program, he already knew many of the players because he teaches in the district.

One was John Wetzel, his sophomore quarterback.

“We have a lot of faith in Johnny,” Prady said. “We trust him to run the offense. He can take off, too, though. He’s got some legs.”

Wetzel has guided the offense accordingly for the Wildcats (7-4), who are coming off their first postseason victory since 1968. The No. 11 seed, Latrobe edged past No. 6 Highlands, 28-21, in overtime to advance to Friday’s quarterfinal at No. 3 Thomas Jefferson (7-3).

Wetzel (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) threw a pair of touchdown passes — a 14-yard strike to Corey Boerio and a 7-yarder to Connor Lakin — as the Wildcats pushed through to overtime.

“He made an incredible run to convert a third-and-13,” Prady said. “He was outside the pocket, leapt over a kid and somehow stayed inbounds. He took over that drive.”

Wetzel has managed games, made big throws and taken off for first downs, all the while providing coverage at safety.

Consider him a steadying force on both sides of the ball.

“He has been very accurate,” Prady said. “He’ll go 6 for 7 or 8 for 9 and makes good throws. We don’t throw it a ton, but when we do, he has been efficient.

“With him being able to run, he’s taken some of the pressure off of (Robby) Fulton. They complement each other.”

Wetzel has thrown for 808 yards and 10 touchdowns and has 517 yards rushing and five scores.

Fulton has been a power rusher with nearly 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns. His 9-yard run — and Ben Bigi’s extra point — tied it in the third quarter, before he won the game with a 6-yard run in overtime.

Nick of time

Ligonier Valley, the seventh seed in Class 2A, will aim for an upset Friday night against No. 2 Beaver Falls (9-1) at Geneva College.

The Rams will do so, however, without senior Nick Lonas, a key two-way player who broke his collarbone last week in the team’s 27-20 win over Western Beaver, the program’s first playoff win in the WPIAL.

Lonas is a key running back and defensive back.

“We say he plays the ‘Jack’ position because he is a jack of all trades,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said. “Replacing him will be by committee because he does so much for us.”

Senior Bruce Krieger will be the main fill-in, moreso defensively as a pass defender and tackler.

“With Nick out, it’s tough,” Beitel said. “We’ll probably get some new guys in to play for him.”

Ligonier Valley hopes to possess the football like it did last week when Western Beaver was limited to just 45 plays.

Beitel honored

Beitel was named the Steelers Youth Football Coach of the Week for Week 10. He will be recognized at an upcoming Steelers game at Acrisure Stadium.

Common opponents

Top-seeded Belle Vernon (7-2) and No. 9 East Allegheny (8-3) will meet Friday at “The Beach” in the Class 3A quarterfinals. While the teams are not conference opponents, they share a large number of opponents.

Both played South Allegheny, Greensburg Salem, Elizabeth Forward and Mt. Pleasant.

Belle Vernon went 4-0 against those teams, and the Wildcats were 3-1. Their only loss was to Elizabeth Forward, 42-7.

Record breaker

You won’t find many players who had a rookie season like Ty Keffer did this season at Southmoreland.

The 6-foot-4 junior wide receiver, playing his first season of varsity football, finished with 73 receptions for 1,009 yards and 16 receiving touchdowns. All three categories are school records.

With honors

A highlight-reel touchdown catch by Greensburg Central Catholic senior Nate Dlugos two weeks ago went viral and caught attention of SBLive Pennsylvania.

The website put the play up for a vote, and it was the winner of all submitted plays for Oct. 27-29 as the state’s play of the week.

Centurions’ quarterback Tyree Turner lofted a spiral down the left sideline, just ahead of Dlugos, who tipped the ball to himself, caught it and raced 64 yards for the score.

He dragged a defender with him for the final 15 yards to add more sizzle to the play.

Hempfield senior Eli Binakonsky, meantime, was voted SB Live’s Pennsylvania Athlete of the Week (Oct. 23-29). He received 63.1% of the nearly 50,000 votes cast.

Binakonsky led the Spartans’ defense with 107 tackles and two interceptions. He also rushed for 268 yards and seven touchdowns.


Binakonsky received a college offer to play at Notre Dame College, a Division II school in Ohio.

Another Hempfield senior, receiver and defensive back Ian Tuffs, has an offer to play at Clarion of the Division II PSAC.

Jeannette senior running back/defensive back Andrew Ross and senior tight end/defensive end/kicker Mitchell Steele have an opportunity to play at Westminster.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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