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Sto-Rox, North Catholic focused on championship glory

Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Tribune-Review
Sto-Rox's Brendan Blair eyes a pass from quarterback Lenny Williams during their WPIAL Class AA semifinal game against Clairton on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, at Chartiers-Houston.

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Sto-Rox (12-0)

Playoff history Sto-Rox won WPIAL titles in 1966 and '87.

Coach Dan Bradley, in his second season, is 23-2 and led the Vikings to the WPIAL title game last year when they fell to Clairton.

Leaders Passing: Lenny Williams, 121-185-2,493, 34 TDs; Rushing: Brendan Blair, 98-706, 14 TDs; Receiving: Mallory Claybourne, 38-974, 10 TDs.

Starting offense

QB 3 Lenny Williams 6-0 200 sr.

RB 7 Brendan Blair 6-0 185 sr.

WR 5 Craig Johnson 5-9 165 jr.

WR 4 Mallory Claybourne 6-0 180 sr.

WR 10 Amair Newning 5-9 175 so.

TE 2 Elisha Bonner 6-0 180 sr.

LT 56 Dom Trombetta 6-0 185 sr.

LG 52 Aubre Clark 5-7 185 sr.

C 58 Jesse Mayes 5-9 250 jr.

RG 51 Jessie Rippole 6-2 255 sr.

RT 54 Dom Dorsey 6-2 230 sr.

K 2 Elisha Bonner 6-0 180 sr.

Starting defense

LT 54 Dom Dorsey 6-2 230 sr.

NG 51 Jessie Rippole 6-2 255 sr.

RT 58 Jesse Mayes 5-9 250 jr.

LB 7 Brendan Blair 6-0 185 sr.

LB 1 Brandon Gary 5-10 175 jr.

LB 2 Elisha Bonner 6-0 180 sr.

LB 11 Damian Danenas 5-11 179 jr.

CB 4 Mallory Claybourne 6-0 180 sr.

CB 32 Jaron Allen 5-10 135 sr.

FS 3 Lenny Williams 6-0 200 sr.

SS 5 Craig Johnson 5-9 165 jr.

P 3 Lenny Williams 6-0 200 sr.

Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (12-0)

Playoff history The Trojans never have played in a WPIAL championship game.

Coach Bob Ravenstahl is 59-29 in eight years. After inheriting a one-win team in ‘06, he has had one below-.500 team.

Leaders Passing: Adam Sharlow, 58-105-877, 8 TDs; Rushing: P.J. Fulmore 158-876, 10 TDs; Receiving: Ryan Kirby 22-364, 3 TDs.

Starting offense

QB 5 P.J. Fulmore 5-9 180 jr.

RB 6 Jerome Turner 5-9 195 jr.

RB 3 Eric Timbers 5-9 186 jr.

WR 1 Mario Latronica 5-9 165 fr.

WR 13 Ronnie Meder 6-2 220 sr.

TE 44 Jarred Fragapane 6-3 235 sr.

LT 59 Ryan Long 6-2 250 sr.

LG 54 Nick Nyman 5-8 190 jr.

C 60 Dylan Grieco 5-7 218 sr.

RG 52 Joshua Churchin 5-9 185 sr.

RT 77 Joe Sadler 6-1 240 jr.

K 30 Michael Tarasovich 5-11 135 jr.

Starting defense

LT 59 Ryan Long 6-2 250 sr.

RT 44 Jarred Fragapane 6-3 235 sr.

NG 54 Nick Nyman 5-8 190 jr.

DE 3 Eric Timbers 5-9 186 jr.

DE 13 Ronnie Meder 6-2 220 sr.

LB 52 Joshua Churchin 5-9 185 sr.

LB 58 Mike Blackwell 6-0 215 sr.

CB 5 P.J. Fulmore 5-9 180 jr.

CB 21 Brennan Sefick 5-11 160 jr.

FS 17 Ryan Kirby 6-1 190 sr.

SS 11 Timon Gribbin 5-10 160 jr.

P 30 Michael Tarasovich 5-11 135 jr.

Top high school sports
By Ed Phillipps
Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, 10:48 p.m.

Sto-Rox quarterback Lenny Williams spent Saturday at home, quietly celebrating his 18th birthday. Meanwhile, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic lineman Ryan Long watched Duquesne's football team defeat Central Connecticut in the afternoon, then called it a day.

After big wins Friday night to reach the WPIAL Class A championship game, there wasn't much celebrating for teams with similar mindsets looking to avoid a hangover.

The top-seeded Vikings (12-0) take on No. 2 North Catholic (12-0) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Heinz Field after each team cleared a hurdle in the semifinals.

For Sto-Rox, it was a victory over five-time defending champion Clairton, which defeated the Vikings in the championship game the past two seasons.

Having finally dispatched the Bears, Sto-Rox shifted its focus to the next game. The Vikings know all too well that what comes next is the ultimate prize.

“That game was just to get where we needed to be,” Williams said.

Saturday was a year ago to the day that Williams spent his 17th birthday knocking North Catholic out of the semifinals, a game in which he tossed a pair of touchdown passes and ran for two more. There was no celebrating the following week when Clairton won the title 58-21.

“They're going to come with a head of steam to win this game,” said Long, noting the championship game losses the past two years make the Vikings hungry for a title.

After inheriting a 1-9 team in 2006, North Catholic coach Bob Ravenstahl has led teams to the semifinals three times before bowing out. The Trojans are playing for the school's first title.

“It's been a long time coming,” a choked-up Ravenstahl, who graduated from the school in 1972, said after Friday's victory.

Each team is undefeated, has a star athletic quarterback, can score in bunches and fields a shutdown defense.

Junior workhorse P.J. Fulmore leads the North Catholic offense. When starter Adam Sharlow went down for the remainder of the season with an injury Oct. 18, Fulmore moved from running back to quarterback. He carried the ball 42 times for 216 yards in a semifinal win against Neshannock. Paving the way in front of him is a group of linemen who have no qualms with — and in fact take pleasure in — being called nasty North Siders.

The group includes center Dylan Grieco, tackles Joe Sadler and Long, and guards Nick Nyman and Joshua Churchin.

The Vikings also can play a physical game.

“Either team will be ready to do whatever it takes to win the game,” Sto-Rox coach Dan Bradley said. “We know what they are going to do, and they know what we are going to do. Whoever does it the best is going to win.”

While Fulmore's best work is done with his legs, Williams does damage through the air. He is the WPIAL's all-time leading passer with more than 8,000 yards. Perhaps his best stat is the ratio between touchdowns and interceptions: 34-2. He's no slouch when running, either. He rushed for 133 yards against Clairton.

With so many similarities, it's no wonder both teams agree that victory begins during the week with thorough preparation and astute note-taking while reviewing film.

“The most important thing is going to be putting the work in during the week,” Long said. “We have to have good focus and a solid week of practice.”

Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.

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