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No. 2 Penn Hills jumps on Latrobe in first-round rout

November 26, 2018

Through the air, on the ground, on defense and on special teams, Penn Hills dominated in every phase against visiting Latrobe on Friday night.

Add in a few nasty stiff arms from Indians standout senior running back Tank Smith, and the 15th-seeded Wildcats had no chance as No. 2 seed Penn Hills rolled to a 55-7 win in the first round of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs.

“We just started the game real good. What can you say,” Penn Hills John LeDonne said. “It was just fundamentally sound football.”

Penn Hills (11-0) moves on to the quarterfinals to face No. 7 seed McKeesport (9-2), a 13-7 winner over Upper St. Clair, next Friday at a site to be determined.

Latrobe (4-7) wraps up its season having reached the postseason for the first time since 2009.

“These guys came to work every day, continued to get better, fought like heck to get into the playoffs and got a taste of it,” Latrobe coach Jason Marucco said. “In the end, ball security, especially in that first round, you got to take care of the football.”

Latrobe received the opening kickoff and fumbled at its on 31-yard line, giving the quick-strike Indians offense a short field. Two plays later, Tank Smith scored on a 21-yard touchdown run to give Penn Hills a 7-0 lead 21 seconds into the game.

The Wildcats went three-and-out on the ensuing possession but the Latrobe defense forced Penn Hills to punt. It was the first and only time.

Penn Hills had two one-play drives in the first half. The first came when Daequan Hardy took a pitch and raced 86 yards down the Penn Hills sideline for a 14-0 lead with just under 6 minutes to play in the first quarter.

“Just with the guys that we line up with, anyone of the guys can take the ball the distance on any play,” LeDonne said. “We’re spreading the ball around and having some good success at it.”

After a 15-play drive by Latrobe ended on a missed 30-yard field goal by Nathan Clair, Penn Hills made the Wildcats pay.

The next play, Smith raced 80 yards for a touchdown but not before delivering a brutal stiff arm to a Wildcats would-be tackler before crossing the goal line to start the rout at 20-0 early in the second quarter. Smith, a Howard recruit, finished with 101 yards rushing on two carries and two touchdowns.

After another three-and-out by Latrobe, Penn Hills standout senior wide receiver Daequan Hardy returned a punt 63 yards to put Penn Hills up 27-0. Running back Ayinde Parker scored from 1-yard out to give Penn Hills a 35-0 halftime lead and a running clock in the second half.

“It was our execution, but a lot of it was Penn Hills,” Marucco said. “They’re a pretty good football team and very fast football team on defense.”

The Indians offense got it done through the air, too. Another Howard recruit, quarterback Hollis Mathis, connected with Dante Cephas for a 42-yard touchdown.

Penn Hills also notched a defensive score when William Steels picked off Latrobe quarterback Branden Crosby and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown.

Latrobe backup quarterback Landan Carns scored on a 9-yard run to avoid the shutout.

Indians backup quarterback Eddie McKissick tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Noel Roach to complete the scoring. The Indians outgained Latrobe, 356-86, in total offense. Corsby rushed 13 times for 52 yards to lead the Wildcats.

“That’s a quality football team,” Marucco said, “and we’ll look and see what they do here in the future.”

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