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Latrobe falls in final moments

| Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008

Latrobe quarterback Eric Shaffer didn't have a bad first half against Fox Chapel. In fact, he played pretty well Friday night.

What he did in the third quarter, however extraordinary, still wasn't enough to give the Wildcats their second victory of the season.

Shaffer was nearly perfect as he led two time-consuming drives in the third quarter that helped Latrobe (1-1) overcome a four-point halftime deficit. But Fox Chapel quarterback Julian Salerno hit Colin Hartford with a 14-yard touchdown with 49.2 seconds remaining to give the Foxes a dramatic 28-24 victory last night at Memorial Stadium.

"It was a good third quarter, but you have to find a way to finish the game," Latrobe coach Pat Murray said. "It doesn't do you any good unless you can do it the fourth quarter, and we didn't."

Trailing 14-10 at halftime, Shaffer led Latrobe on two touchdown drives that took a combined 9:09 off the clock and gave his team a 24-14 lead. On the two drives, Shaffer was 7 of 8 passing for 81 yards and a touchdown pass to Ryan LaDuke, and he also carried seven times for 31 yards and the other score.

Latrobe's dominance in the third quarter was absolute -- the Wildcats outgained Fox Chapel, 146-17, and ran 23 plays to the Foxes' seven.

Fox Chapel scored early in the fourth quarter when Montay Green, who carried 18 times for 113 yards, picked up his second touchdown of the game on a 5-yard run with 9:22 remaining to cut its deficit to 24-21 and give the Foxes hope for their final drive.

Starting at his own 18, Salerno accounted for all 82 yards running and passing. He carried twice for 15 yards, and completed 6 of 8 passes for 67 yards and the touchdown pass to Hartford. He finished the game 13 for 20 for 167 yards.

"He's been in this situation before in the two-minute drill, and we worked hard on it all year, and he responded," Fox Chapel coach Bryan Deal said. "Most guys go right in the tank, and I'm hard on him because I coach him and expect a higher level of play, and he responded, and he was masterful on that drive."

He only got that chance because of a missed opportunity by Latrobe.

Trailing 24-21 with 4:52 remaining, Fox Chapel took over after a punt at its own 4-yard line and began what could have been the winning drive. After two first downs, however, Salerno scrambled toward the line of scrimmage and was stripped of the ball, which went careening into the defensive backfield where Latrobe safety Matt Blank recovered with 2:47 to play in regulation.

After a second-down run, Fox Chapel used its final timeout, but Latrobe could not pick up the critical first down on a deep throw down the right sideline and had to punt back to the Foxes.

"We ran the ball twice, we ran the jet sweep, and I thought it should have gone for bigger yardage than it did, but it didn't," Murray said. "I knew they were going to jam the line of scrimmage and take away Shaffer and (running back) Brad (Burkley). So we thought we'd single coverage down the field with Tony (Lonigro) and we'd throw it up the field and catch it."

Shaffer finished 14 of 23 for 174 yards and a touchdown, but after that final pass glanced off Lonigro's fingertips, he was forced to watch the Foxes' final drive from the sideline.

Fox Chapel got the ball back with 2:19 remaining and used a 10-play, 82-yard drive that took only 1:28 to take the lead for good.

"We talked to our kids all week long about a 48-minute game because we know it doesn't matter who has more talent or less talent, every game we play against Latrobe is going to come down to the wire," Deal said. "The last four times it's basically come down to the last play of the game."

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