Neighborhood rivals Hempfield, Latrobe set to square off
Coaches Rich Bowen at Hempfield and Ray Reitz at Latrobe had varying messages for their players following Friday night's WPIAL Class AAAA football openers.
While Hempfield was shocking then-No. 7 McKeesport, 33-18, Latrobe was taking a 61-6 beating from No. 2 Gateway.
Afterwards, both men agreed on at least one thing: Keep it positive.
“I said to our guys, ‘We've come a long way in six months,' ” said Bowen, Hempfield's first-year coach. “'We're proud of the win, but be humble. When people congratulate you, say thank you.' ”
Reitz was faced with a different scenario.
“I told them, ‘No one will feel sorry for us,' ” he said. “'We got knocked down. We've got to learn to get back up.'
“I want my players to learn from that game, learn to grow up. They're so young.”
The two coaches will oppose one another when Hempfield welcomes Latrobe on Friday night. Bowen obviously wants the winning to continue. Reitz simply desires a competitive performance, with a victory the ultimate goal.
“We're excited to go to Hempfield. It should be a great venue,” Reitz said.
It is just the second game for both schools, but their most recent meeting may still be a vivid memory. They played the season finale in 2011, a 35-14 Latrobe victory on Oct. 28.
Hempfield's upset of McKeesport on the road ended a four-game losing streak in the series, when they were outscored, 174-19.
Junior quarterback Ty George passed for 122 yards, and junior running back Joey DeFloria had 182 yards of total offense for Hempfield. Junior Skyler Carkuff led Hempfield with 101 yards rushing.
Bowen's spread-option offense was effective against McKeesport. Will the success continue?
“We better be focused and ready to go,” Bowen said. “We've talked long and hard about how to handle things this week. We haven't done anything yet. Right now, the most important game of the season is the Latrobe game. We preached focusing on who's coming up each week.”
Latrobe's offense couldn't produce much against Gateway's staunch defense, but that doesn't matter to Bowen.
“They've got some good, young players,” he said of the Wildcats. “The quarterback (junior Logan Carns) is a pretty good athlete. I know they will be ready to play.”
With Week 1 behind them, Reitz and the Wildcats hope to put their experience to good use.
“Last week is over,” Reitz said. “It was a learning thing. We made a lot of fundamental mistakes. Probably it was good for us to go through it, because now the kids know what it's going to take.
“When Gateway got up on us, both coaches decided to get their jayvees some playing time.”
Senior running back Robert Vasinko, who gained 509 yards and averaged 7.5 yards per carry last season, is doubtful for Latrobe after injuring his ankle on the second series against Gateway.
“He's the quiet leader of this team,” Reitz said.
Hempfield will be without junior right guard/defensive tackle Matt Champman (concussion) for a second week, though junior defensive tackle Max Adams, who was sidelined for much of the McKeesport game with concussion-like symptoms, was cleared to return to the Spartans' lineup, Bowen said.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5617.