The Greater Latrobe football team needed a positive way to respond after back-to-back losses in which the Wildcats were outscored 88-14.
They found what they were looking for during the first play of Friday’s 55-13 victory against Connellsville Area in a WPIAL Class 5A Big East Conference at Memorial Stadium.
Greater Latrobe’s Brayden Reott returned the opening kickoff 28 yards to the Connellsville Area 46-yard line. The Wildcats then used trickery to score on the first play of the game, as Reott took a lateral from Bobby Fetter — who returned from an injury suffered on Sept. 3 — and threw downfield to Kyle Brewer for a 46-yard touchdown. A missed extra point made it 6-0.
“We were coming off the last two weeks that we had, and we felt like we needed that,” Greater Latrobe head coach Jason Marucco said. “We needed to send a message as a football team that we’re here to win. We’re going to be aggressive. And to the kids’ credit, they executed it very well.”
From the start, the Wildcats set the tone, and they went on to score seven more touchdowns while racking up 586 total yards. Meanwhile, the Wildcats’ defense actually held the Falcons to negative rushing yardage (minus 10) and just 137 yards of total offense.
Greater Latrobe led 28-7 at the half and triggered the mercy rule early in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats bounced back after a 35-7 non-conference loss versus South Fayette, followed by a 53-7 defeat against Gateway in the conference-opener last week.
“I love the way we responded after the last two weeks,” Marucco said. “We came out and started fast, and executed well early on.”
Greater Latrobe improved to 1-1 in the conference and 3-4 overall, while the Falcons (0-2, 0-7) remain winless.
Fetter’s return to the offense also provided the Wildcats a much needed spark, while Drake Clayton and Brewer’s combined 337 rushing yards haunted the Falcons’ defense all night.
Clayton led both sides with 217 rushing yards on 18 carries, while Brewer went for 120 on nine with two scores. Fetter ran the ball seven times for 57 yards, while going 7 for 11 for 77 passing yards with two interceptions. He also had two rushing touchdowns and one throwing.
Marucco said Fetter’s return was “a big shot in the arm for him and our football team,” while Clayton and Brewer “have been the staples of our offense.”
“It’s big when they’re both on the field together, and we haven’t had that in two weeks,” Marucco said. “It poses problems for a defense when you have the (quarterback), the slot, and the guy in the backfield that can make a big play for you at any time. And that certainly showed up here tonight.”
After a missed Greater Latrobe field goal, the Wildcats scored again later in the first quarter. Fetter hit Corey Boerio with a 19-yard touchdown pass for a 13-0 lead.
Connellsville Area’s Jayden McBride picked off a Greater Latrobe pass later in the quarter, but the Falcons started on their own 2-yard line. An intentional grounding call on quarterback Anthony Piasecki two plays later gave the Wildcats a safety and a 15-0 lead.
Fetter threw an interception on the ensuing possession, but Greater Latrobe’s Conor Lakin recovered a fumble the ball came loose on a Zakary David run. Fetter went untouched on a 27-yard touchdown run soon after, giving the Wildcats a 22-0 lead.
After a Connellsville Area punt, Brewer found a hole and carried the ball 63 yards downfield for a touchdown on the first play of the Wildcats’ next possession. The Wildcats led 28-0 after a missed extra point.
David scored an 85-yard touchdown on the first play of the ensuing series, but a penalty nullified the score and the Falcons later punted.
On the following possession, Connellsville Area recovered a Clayton fumble, and pass interference call on Greater Latrobe kept the drive alive as David later scored from the 2-yard line after Piasecki found Jason McBride for a 22-yard reception after a sack forced a fourth-and-long. The score was 28-7 after a successful kick in the final 90 seconds of the half. Piasecki went 11 for 25 with 147 passing yards and a touchdown.
Clayton scored an 11-yard touchdown on Greater Latrobe’s first possession of the second half. The Wildcats only needed four plays to drive 59 yards and score. Clayton appeared stopped, but he broke free and muscled his way into the endzone, as Popella’s extra point made it 35-7 with 9:11 to play in the third quarter.
“When we got out of sync there around half, I thought we came back out in the second half and really cleaned it up and played a pretty good half of football,” Marucco said.
A penalty nullified a 52-yard Clayton run and Greater Latrobe fumbled soon after. Jayden McBride picked up 37 yards into the red zone on a reception, but the Falcons turned the ball over on downs.
Fetter scored a touchdown on Greater Latrobe’s next possession, as the Wildcats drove 85 yards on just eight plays. However, the extra-point snap was botched and the Wildcats led 41-7.
After the Falcons went three-and-out, the Wildcats gained possession on their own 43-yard line. Clayton picked up a 32-yard gain, and Connor Lakin triggered the 35-point mercy rule with a 25-yard touchdown run, in which he spun past a defender just before diving into the endzone.
Piasecki completed three passes in a row on the following 64-yard drive, as he hit Jayden McBride for a 25-yard touchdown pass with just over 11 minutes remaining in the contest.
Greater Latrobe’s Riley Smith entered the game for Fetter, and the Wildcats put together a seven-play, 38-yard drive to score with 42 seconds remaining. Brady Prohovic rushed four times on the drive and he plunged into the endzone from six yards out to set the final at 55-13 after Ja’Tawn Williams made the extra point.
Up next for Greater Latrobe is Franklin Regional (1-1, 2-5). The Panthers defeated Connellsville Area, 36-0, two weeks ago but suffered a 37-21 loss against Woodland Hills on Friday.
When asked what team can try to improve upon for next week, Marucco’s response was succinct: “Beat Franklin Regional… Simple as that.”
Greater Latrobe 55 Connellsville 13
First downs 8 17 Rushes-yds 21-(-10) 43-463 Passing yds 147 123 Passes-int 11-26-0 8-12-2 Fumbles-lost 1-1 4-2 Penalties-yds 6-48 10-70 Punts-avg 9-33.5 1-35.0 Total offense 137 586
Score by Quarters
Connellsville 0 7 0 6 — 13 Gr. Latrobe 15 13 13 14 — 55
GL— Brewer 46 pass from Reott (kick failed) GL- Boerio 19 pass from Fetter (Popella kick) GL- Safety GL- Fetter 27 run (Popella kick) GL- Brewer 63 run (kick failed) CA- David 2 run (Zavatchan kick) GL- Clayton 11 run (Popella kick) GL- Fetter 15 run (pass failed) GL- Lakin 25 run (Popella kick) CA- Jay McBride 25 pass from Piasecki (pass failed) GL— Prohovic 6 run (Williams kick)
CA— David 14-18; Gillot 1-1; Giles 1-(-10); Piasecki 5-(-19) GL—Clayton 18-217; Brewer 9-120; Fetter 7-57; Lakin 1-25; Flenniken 2-19; Prohovic 4-18; Smith 2-7
CA— Piasecki 11-25-0-147; Gillot 0-1-0-0 GL— Fetter 7-11-2-77; Reott 1-1-0-46; Smith 0-1-0-0
CA— Jas. McBride 5-84; Jay. McBride 2-45; Ross 1-10; David 3-8.
GL— Clayton 3-59; Brewer 1-46; Boerio 2-31; Clayton 1-18; Stevens 2-14