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Latrobe to use offseason conditioning program to improve on 1-8 campaign

GTRLatrobeHemp1011145
Eric Schmadel | For Trib Total Media
Hempfield linebacker Logan Swan wraps up Latrobe quarterback Craig Stevens during their October 10, 2014 contest at Memorial Stadium in Latrobe.
GTRLatrobeHemp1011143
Eric Schmadel | For Trib Total Media
Hempfield linebacker Logan Swan rides down Latrobe running back Keith Findle during their October 10, 2014 contest at Memorial Stadium in Latrobe.

Looking strictly at wins and losses won’t tell the whole story of Jason Marucco’s first season at the helm of the Latrobe football program.

The Wildcats finished the 2014 campaign with a 1-8 overall record and a 1-7 mark in Quad East play, which was good for an eighth-place finish in the nine-team conference. But one needs to look no further than the four teams that still remain in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs to see the strength of the schedule Latrobe played this season.

Four of the eight teams still alive in the Quad-A draw heading into this weekend’s quarterfinal action — Penn-Trafford, McKeesport, Altoona and Plum — hail from the Quad East. Only Norwin — the fifth-place team from the conference — was eliminated from the postseason in last week’s opening round.

“When you’re going through it, you think these teams are pretty good,” Marucco said of the rest of the Quad East. “It’s no doubt that the conference was a tremendous challenge for us, but you have to win games to get respect.”

Latrobe’s lone victory of the season came at home against Kiski Area on Sept. 5. The Wildcats posted a 50-27 win on senior night.

“We had a great senior class,” Marucco said. “It was important for that group to get a win that night.”

While Latrobe’s 17 seniors handled the coaching transition well, injuries to key players — and losses — began to mount as the weeks wore on.

“We had some kids get injured early who were playmakers for us,” Marucco said. “They were the kinds of kids who could take it to the end zone on any given play.

“But I was proud of the kids who stepped in.”

Junior quarterback Craig Stevens and sophomores Austin Butler and Michael Mucci will be among the players who will form the core of the Latrobe squad in 2015.

Stevens accounted for a team-high seven touchdowns — five on the ground and two through the air.

Marucco also is encouraged by the amount of football being played by the eighth-grade, freshman and junior varsity teams, all of which will benefit the varsity program in the years to come.

“Our eighth-grade and freshman teams played a full schedule,” Marucco said. “The JV team played all but the last two games.

“We have our whole program playing a lot of football.”

And with Marucco and his coaching staff entering their second year, the Wildcats can begin to turn the page with the start of offseason conditioning.

“It’s exciting that we’ll have the whole offseason to implement our program from Day 1,” Marucco said. “We need to get in the weight room and increase our strength and speed so we can continue to get better.

“Every day we’re in the weight room or on the field, we have to get better at something.”

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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