Westmoreland football notebook: Latrobe embraces win-and-in game

Thursday, October 10, 2019 | 7:14 PM

Ideally, teams want playoff spots locked up by Week 7 of the WPIAL season.

It would take some pressure off, maybe bring the idea of resting starters into play and even allow coaches to start evaluating potential postseason matchups.

But the majority of teams still have work to do, including Latrobe, which faces a win-and-in game Friday night at home against Plum.

The Wildcats (2-5) are tied with Plum (3-4) for fifth place in the Class 5A Big East at 1-4. The top five teams qualify and a sixth team could be eligible for the wild-card spot.

Latrobe is wrapping its arms around the challenge.

“It is an exciting week when you know everything you have been working for all year is right in front of you,” Latrobe coach Jason Marucco said. “We talk about it every day at practice and embrace the opportunity.”

Marucco said the motivation will fuel his team, but don’t expect the Wildcats to overthink this matchup.

“The one thing that does not change is our preparation,” Marucco said. “We still go into every week trying to win every rep in practice so that we can transfer that into the field Friday night.”

Latrobe is seeking back-to-back playoff trips. It qualified last season for the first time since 2009.

Playoff snapshot

Franklin Regional also can clinch a spot in the Class 5A Big East with a win Friday at Connellsville, which would extend the Panthers’ playoff streak to 16 consecutive appearances.

Penn-Trafford has clinched a spot and a share of the Big East title.

In Class 6A, Norwin and Hempfield are alive as six of nine teams qualify in the single conference.

Belle Vernon clinched in Class 4A, and Greensburg Salem can qualify with a win Friday at Ringgold. The Golden Lions also are seeking back-to-back playoff trips after qualifying last year for the first time since 2011.

The Class 3A Big East has turned into a logjam. None of the teams have clinched yet. North Catholic leads at 5-0. Derry is 4-1. Elizabeth Forward is 3-2. Burrell, Freeport and Deer Lakes are 3-3, and Mt. Pleasant is 2-3.

In Class 2A, Southmoreland is in. Jeannette, Greensburg Central Catholic and Monessen are looking to clinch in Class A.

Waldier producing

One of the most productive pass-catching threats in the WPIAL plays at Yough.

Junior receiver C.J. Waldier is quietly having a career season.

Heading into last week’s game at Aliquippa, Waldier had 45 catches for 608 yards and four touchdowns. He was averaging 101.3 receiving yards, pulling in six catches for 111 yards at Mt. Pleasant, 14 for 235 against Deer Lakes and 12 for 146 against Freeport.

Waldier hoped to be one-half of a big-play combination with his brother, Tristan, a sophomore quarterback who suffered a season-ending injury in the season opener against Serra Catholic.

Instead, he has become the favorite target of junior Gamal Marballie, his brother’s replacement.

“C.J. has really stepped it up this year,” Yough coach Scott Wood said. “When his brother got hurt, he dedicated his season to him and he meant it. He is playing with a purpose. He wants the ball in his hands every opportunity he can get it.”

Wood said Waldier has big-play ability.

“He has three kickoff returns for touchdowns, but one was brought back on a penalty,” Wood said. “He is also our leading tackler.”

Fanelli, Lisbon healing?

Penn-Trafford has played without senior running backs Caleb Lisbon and Sam Fanelli for three-and-a-half games but coach John Ruane is not ruling out at least one of the injured players returning this season.

Both have knee injuries.

Ruane won’t get into specifics and has been cryptic about the injuries but he offered this: “We are hopeful they return. They are progressing nicely.”

Glunt out

Greensburg Salem had just one senior on its young offensive line, but he will miss the rest of the season with an injury. Thomas Glunt tore his ACL and will not return for the Golden Lions.

Keefer honored

Southmoreland coach Dave Keefer was honored as one of the Steelers’ Coaches of the Week. He was recognized at last week’s game at Heinz Field.

State ranks

Three Westmoreland teams are looming large in the TribLive HSSN state rankings.

Penn-Trafford (Class 5A) and Jeannette (Class A) are No. 1, and Ligonier Valley (District 6 Class 2A) is No. 3 behind Southern Columbia and Washington.

The other top-ranked teams are St. Joseph’s Prep (6A), Thomas Jefferson (4A) and Aliquippa (3A).

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

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