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Latrobe approves hire of football coach

| Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Greater Latrobe School Board didn't have to look far in its search for a new football coach.

In fact, it only needed to look down the halls of the high school building and into Jason Marucco's biology classroom.

The school board unanimously approved Marucco's hiring last Tuesday, and he will be tasked with turning around a program that went 18-28 in the last five seasons under Ray Reitz, including a 2-7 mark last season.

He comes from the Mt. Pleasant staff, where he served as the passing game coordinator, wide receivers coach and defensive backs coach since 2009 and helped the Vikings to a Class AA Interstate Conference title last season.

Marucco will attempt to instill that same type of championship culture at Latrobe.

“Just the same type of work ethic and winning attitude that we had over there at Mt. Pleasant,” Marucco said of what he will try and bring to the Wildcats. “Particularly on the practice field, learning how to prepare and earning that right to play with confidence on Friday nights.”

Latrobe football has been a part of Marucco's life since he was just a kid.

Not only did the 41-year-old play for the Wildcats before graduating in 1991, he also worked as the offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and linebackers coach there from 2006-08 and was the running backs coach and defensive ends coach from 1996-98.

He also was an assistant coach of the junior high football team from 1995-96 and coached the seventh grade basketball team in 1996-97.

This will be his first varsity head coaching job.

“It's kind of come full circle. ... I really do think that's what makes this so special for me,” he said.

While a member of the Latrobe football team, Marucco played under coaches Ron Baldonieri and John Bainbridge on teams similar to the current Wildcats squad, which makes it easier to relate to his current players.

“I was sitting in their shoes 23 years ago,” he said. “I understand what they're feeling, too. Change can sometimes be a little scary, but I think over time that we'll develop the relationship with the kids, and they'll learn to trust us and try to build a successful program.”

Marucco's transition into his new role figures to be a smooth one, considering he is familiar with the team from teaching at the school. Some of the players he hadn't yet been introduced to knew where to find him once they heard the news.

“A few of the guys I didn't know, they knew where my room was, came down and congratulated me, which meant a lot especially as a first-time head coach,” he said.

Marucco said he will look to provide coaching help on each side of the ball but will be more focused on offense and will call the offensive plays. He is still in the process of assembling a coaching staff.

While reviving a program that hasn't advanced to the postseason since the 2009-10 season will be no simple chore, Marucco believes that once his team is able to taste a bit of initial success the rest should fall into place.

“I think the biggest challenge is getting that success,” he said. “You know you're going to prepare and work hard, but we all know you need to have that success mentally for them to start believing that they can do this and that we can win football games and have a successful program.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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