PIAA Class A quarterfinals preview: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic vs. Tussey Mountain

| Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 6:38 p.m.

PIAA A quarterfinals

Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (13-0) vs. Tussey Mountain (11-2) 7 p.m. Friday at Hampton

If defense wins championships, then Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic has as good a shot as anyone to add to its trophy case.

Less than one week after winning the school's first WPIAL Class A championship, the Trojans begin their quest for a PIAA title at 7 p.m. Friday against District 5 champion Tussey Mountain (11-2) in Friday's state quarterfinals at Hampton.

North Catholic (13-0), which has allowed just 10.5 points per game this season, was at its best Saturday at Heinz Field, holding the WPIAL's all-time leading passer, Sto-Rox's Lenny Williams, to 203 yards while forcing three turnovers. The Trojans also had six sacks and held Sto-Rox to just 19 rushing yards on 21 carries.

“Our defense played a heck of a football game,” North Catholic coach Bob Ravenstahl said.

Tussey Mountain will provide a completely different look than the pro-style Sto-Rox offense, favoring the Wing-T attack. The Titans are led by three skilled players out of the backfield — QB Quinn Barnett and RBs Darrin Sipes and Dan Taylor.

Sipes, a PIAA track and field medalist in the 100-meter dash, is the team's all-around performer on both sides of the ball. He has rushed for 1,606 yards and 20 touchdowns, caught 16 passes for 460 yards and five scores and has made 115 tackles as a safety.

“Darrin is a very physical-style runner,” TM coach Josh Smith said. “He has a ton of speed but is very physical and also blocks well and can catch the ball out of the backfield. It's a pleasure to have him. Defensively, we move him all over the field and he makes plays.”

Taylor complements Sipes well offensively, offering a speedy, more elusive option in the Wing-T, Smith said. He has rushed for 1,329 yards and 20 scores.

North Catholic will rely on its defensive leaders to set the tone Friday night. The group includes tackles Ryan Long (2 sacks Saturday) and Jarred Fragapane (3 tackles for loss), linebacker Joshua Churchin (captain) and defensive backs P.J. Fulmore (6 tackles), Ryan Kirby (interception) and Timon Gribbin (5 tackles).

— Bill Hartlep

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