Westmoreland County high school notebook: New challenge awaits Latrobe after WPIAL realignment

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Saturday, February 24, 2024 | 11:01 AM


The fall sports landscape will look quite different next year with the WPIAL realigning teams in its latest two-year enrollment cycle.

Norwin and Hempfield are back in Class 6A for football and will play in one, eight-team conference that also will include Canon-McMillan, Central Catholic, Mt. Lebanon, Seneca Valley, North Allegheny and Butler.

Norwin and Hempfield played in 5A the last two years.

Much-improved Latrobe, meantime, will move into what looks to be the new 5A Big East Conference with Kiski Area, Franklin Regional, Penn-Trafford, Gateway, Armstrong and Woodland Hills.

“I think it’s as competitive as any conference in the WPIAL,” Latrobe coach Ron Prady said. “We understand the challenge ahead of us just to be competitive.”

Belle Vernon is the other big mover from Westmoreland County. The two-time defending WPIAL and PIAA 3A champion Leopards are up a class and will play in a 4A conference with Laurel Highlands, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson, Trinity and Chartiers Valley.

Derry, Greensburg Salem, Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland and Yough will be in a 3A conference, likely to be called the Interstate, and rivals Burrell and Valley will play together in another 3A lineup alongside Deer Lakes, East Allegheny and Freeport.

Ligonier Valley will be the only county team in 2A and appears to be staying in the Allegheny Conference.

Greensburg Central Catholic and Jeannette will remain in the Class A Eastern Conference, but a different grouping includes Brentwood, Clairton, Frazier, Leechburg, Riverview and Springdale.

Monessen appears to be leaving the former Tri-County South to play in a conference with Bishop Canevin, Burgettstown, Chartiers-Houston, Cornell, Fort Cherry and Serra Catholic.

Soccer changes

Soccer teams might not have to play overtime in the regular season if a new rule passes, but a number of them will be logging extra mileage.

Defending WPIAL 4A champion Norwin will be in a new-look Section 1 with Central Catholic, Gateway, Hempfield, Penn Hills and Plum.

Class 4A is now three sections instead of two.

Section 3-3A has a unique crop that includes Allderdice, Belle Vernon, Franklin Regional, Latrobe, Penn-Trafford, Uniontown, Washington and West Mifflin.

Belle Vernon moves up from 2A.

“I am shocked by the travel involved,” Belle Vernon coach Al Yeschenko said. “I believe eliminating OT will help somewhat with the time that we would arrive back to the school, but it’s still tough. I will also miss working in some of the local rivalries that were eliminated. Local teams games always do much more for attendance, concessions and 50/50 sales. It is what it is. We will prepare and deal with it like any other year.”

Section 4-2A includes Brownsville, Charleroi, Derry, Greensburg Salem, Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland, Waynesburg and Yough.

On the girls side, Latrobe bumps up to 4A after a solid run in 3A, joining Armstrong, Hempfield, Norwin, Penn-Trafford and Woodland Hills in Section 1.

Section 4-3A has Elizabeth Forward, Franklin Regional, Greensburg Salem, Indiana, Kiski Area, Plum and West Mifflin.

Belle Vernon moves down to 2A and will play in Section 1 with Charleroi, Keystone Oaks, McGuffey, Ringgold, South Park, and Steel Valley.

Section 4-2A includes Deer Lakes, East Allegheny, Ligonier Valley, Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland, and Yough.

Mazowiecki selected

Greensburg Central Catholic senior football player Peter Mazowiecki was picked for the American Football Worldwide Elite Team that will play in Italy as part of an educational trip that will be capped by a football game March 30 against the National 19U American Team of Italy at Vigorelli Stadium.

Last year, Nate Dlugos of GCC attended the same event.

A running back and linebacker, Mazowiecki (5-foot-8, 190 pounds) is one of 30 high school seniors selected from 10 states.

The U.S. team will gather March 24 in Rome and begin practices before touring historical and cultural spots in that part of the country.

Mazowiecki had a team-high 113 tackles, including 88 solo, with two sacks, an interception, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries last season.

He scored four touchdowns.

Hempfield on track

The Hempfield girls indoor track and field team finished second at the Tri-State Coaches Association Championships.

Senior Grace Iwig won the pole vault with a height of 11 feet, 1 inch and also took third in the high jump.

Sophomore Chesnee Smith was second in the 800-meter run (2 minutes, 18.69 seconds), and sophomore Lauren Howard placed third in the triple jump (36-1 1/2) and 60-meter hurdles (9.44).

Junior Kate Dolinski took third in the shot put.

For the boys, who finished fourth overall, senior Peyton Murray won the shot put, and senior Caleb Prola took third in the 200 (22.58).

The 800 relay of Prola, senior Harrison Methven, senior Aleksis Ratenieks and junior Dylan Hall finished third.

Ratenieks is a foreign-exchange student from Latvia.

Recruiting

• Latrobe football standout John Wetzel picked up another Division I scholarship offer, from Old Dominion.

• Ligonier Valley senior Alexa Harding will play college volleyball at Mount Aloysius. She is a middle hitter who had 130 digs last season.

• Derry senior Reigna Taylor will continue her track and field career at Chatham.

• Kaylee Doppelheuer of Southmoreland committed to Bethany for volleyball.

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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