North Catholic football team earns trip to Heinz Field
In the school's last year at its Troy Hill location, the Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic football team earned its first trip to a WPIAL title game with a 27-14 victory over Neshannock on Friday night at Mars.
The second-seeded Trojans (12-0) advanced to Heinz Field, where they will face top-seeded Sto-Rox on Nov. 23.
“We're doing this for this whole institution,” lineman Ryan Long said, “everybody who ever passed through that locker room at North Catholic.”
The school is moving to Cranberry next school year.
Quarterback P.J. Fulmore ran the ball 42 times for 216 yards and scored all four of the Trojans' touchdowns. He scored on runs of 4, 1, 4, and 5 yards.
After being bottled up for much of the first half, Fulmore ran wild after halftime, when he scored three touchdowns.
“It was a real hard-fought game,” Fulmore said. “Our line kept opening up the holes, and I kept running behind them.”
The game was a rematch of the Trojans' 21-14 victory Oct. 18.
“You would think they knew what we were doing, but they didn't stop us,” Long said.
Neshannock coach Fred Mozzocio said the offensive line made the difference.
“Give credit to those guys up front,” he said. “They kept the ball away from us.”
Earlier this week, Trojans coach Bob Ravenstahl touted his linemen as one of the team's biggest strengths. They proved him right.
“They're the best offensive line in Single-A football,” Ravenstahl said. “It might be the best offensive line in all of football as far as I'm concerned.”
The Trojans struck first on their opening drive when Fulmore ran it in from the 4. He carried eight times for 27 yards on the drive, and two offsides penalties on the Lancers helped to keep the drive moving.
Neshannock (9-3) answered on its next possession when Ernie Burkes faked a handoff to motioning Tyler Perry before keeping the ball and running untouched up the middle for 52 yards.
The offenses cooled after that.
Fulmore, a Division I prospect, was held to 54 yards on 20 carries in the first half. The former running back, who was moved under center after a season-ending injury to starter Adam Sharlow in the teams' first meeting, was kept in check, most notably by senior linebacker Ralph Dovidio, who sacked Fulmore on back-to-back third-and-long plays.
The Lancers offense suffered the loss of 1,000-yard rusher Elijah Owens, who left in the first half with a right leg injury and did not return.
Lancers quarterback Ernie Burkes completed 4 of 11 passes for 66 yards.
Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.