Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic responds in a hurry for PIAA quarterfinal victory
Jerome Turner didn't panic when Tussey Mountain took a 7-0 lead early in Friday's PIAAClass A quarterfinal.
Turner, the Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic tailback, knew the Trojans would respond. It was only a matter of when.
Despite falling behind early, North Catholic broke out in a big way and found little resistance in its first appearance in the state playoffs, downing the District 5 champions, 48-7, at Hampton's Fridley Field.
“They came out and shocked us with that touchdown,” said Turner, who rushed for 62 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries. “After they scored on us, they woke us up.”
North Catholic (14-0) will play the winner of Saturday's Lakeview/Clarion game Dec. 7 in the PIAA Class A semifinals.
Freshman Mario Latronica ran 18 times for 190 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback P.J. Fulmore completed 3 of 7 passes for 103 yards and a score. The Trojans held an opponent to a touchdown or less for the fourth time in five games.
“We knew we had to win,” Latronica said. “Hershey's our goal. Last week Heinz (Field) was our goal, and we just came out and did it. Our goal is Hershey right now.”
Tussey Mountain scored 117 points in its previous three playoff games but mounted just 66 yards over its final nine drives.
North Catholic went three-and-out on its first two possessions, while Dan Taylor (99 yards) gave Tussey Mountain a 7-0 lead with a 66-yard touchdown run at 4 minutes, 55 seconds of the first quarter.
Turner capped a six-play, 67-yard drive with a 14-yard run, and he made it 14-7 with a 16-yarder early in the second quarter. A fourth-down pass from Fulmore to Ronnie Meder kept the drive alive.
Tussey Mountain (11-3) turned it over on downs after an eight-play drive, and North Catholic surged ahead 21-7 on a 7-yard run from Latronica at 7:48 of the second, the Trojans' third rushing touchdown in a span of 6:53.
“Just frustrating,” Tussey Mountain coach Josh Smith said. “Little things that we didn't do quite right to make plays defensively. We had a couple turnovers, and that's been our undoing in our other losses this year.”
Turner's 7-yard run and a 50-yard pass from Fulmore to Meder made it 35-7 at halftime.
Jarred Fragapane returned a fumble 43 yards early in the third to trigger the mercy rule, something few thought possible midway through the first quarter.
“I guess they started to realize that this is going to be a football game,” North Catholic coach Bob Ravenstahl said. “We keep trying to tell them that you can't take anybody lightly. I don't think they took them lightly, but they scored first, and we responded after that.”