Heinz Field uncharted territory for 4 WPIAL football semifinalists
TribLIVE Sports Videos
An old church bell hung inside North Catholic's gym rings when one of its teams wins a WPIAL championship.
It's been rather quiet in the fall.
“When the boys won the basketball (title) a couple years ago, I believe they rung the bell,” football coach Bob Ravenstahl said, “and the girls have been pretty successful. But I don't even know if the kids on the (football) team realize that. I know it from being an alum from way back.”
To win a football championship, newly named Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic first must get there.
Despite a strong tradition that's decades old, the school never has reached a WPIAL football title game. The Trojans will have a chance to earn their first trip when they face Neshannock on Friday night in a Class A semifinal at Mars.
“It would be a big boost to the school,” said Ravenstahl, a 1972 North Catholic graduate, who recalls when the victory bell was rung by players for wins over Central Catholic. “It's a fun time of year because everybody takes a special interest.”
Neshannock understands the anticipation. The Lancers also have never reached a football championship game. So, regardless of who wins Friday, the victor will make school history.
Among a 16-team semifinal field that's already heavy with championship trophies, only North Catholic and Neshannock in Class A, Penn-Trafford in Class AAAA and Beaver in Class AA have not already played at Heinz Field at least once. While Clairton, Aliquippa and others might make it look rather easy, these four understand the difficulty.
“From my experience, it's awfully hard,” Ravenstahl said.
“Any time you get to this point in the year, all the teams left are very talented and really well coached,” Neshannock coach Fred Mozzocio said.
Penn-Trafford's most-recent football championship game appearance was in 1997, when the Warriors lost to Upper St. Clair, 28-27. That also was the only time Penn-Trafford was in the semifinals.
Beaver, which last made the title game in 1982, reached the semifinals in 2002 and 2003. Standing in Beaver's path Friday will be Aliquippa. The Quips are seeking their sixth consecutive trip to Heinz Field.
“There are some very good teams out there,” Beltz said, “and if you want to go to the final, you've got to go through them.”
North Catholic has seen similar roadblocks.
This is the third time in Ravenstahl's eight seasons as coach that North Catholic has reached the semifinals, including a 34-20 loss to Sto-Rox in last season's semis. In 2009, the Trojans lost to Rochester, 14-7. The team watched video of last year's loss.
“We looked at the scoreboard and wanted to remember how we felt,” Ravenstahl said. “It's not a good feeling.”
Reigning Class A champion Clairton and runner-up Sto-Rox will meet Friday in the other semifinal. The winner will await either North Catholic or Neshannock on Nov. 23 at Heinz Field. North Catholic beat Neshannock, 21-14, in Week 8.
A year ago, Neshannock lost to Clairton, 37-7, in the semifinals. The Lancers have changed much since a 19-game losing streak a decade ago. They expect a fan following Friday similar to the one that made the long drive to Chartiers-Houston last week.
“We had a bunch of our fans that had to go sit on the Monessen side,” Mozzocio said. “The seating there couldn't hold us. To go to Heinz Field, I couldn't imagine how many people would make the trip down.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Clairton captures 12th WPIAL football championship
- Clairton among greatest WPIAL dynasties; Aliquippa, South Fayette close
- WPIAL Class AAAA final preview: Penn-Trafford looking to reverse trend of playoff losses to Central Catholic
- WPIAL Class A final preview: Jeannette proved it was up to challenge of facing Clairton during Eastern Conference matchup
- WPIAL Class AAA final preview: Big-play passing attack paying off for defending WPIAL champion Central Valley
- WPIAL Class AA final preview: Rivals South Fayette, Aliquippa to play for title for record 3rd straight season
- Karns City tops Bedford in state football playoffs
- WPIAL history full of football dynasties
- HS highlight reel: Pair of title games to be on tape delay Saturday
- Central Catholic senior Jones plays key role in all phases for Vikings
- High school notebook: New classes put football finalists on the move next season