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Clarion's explosive offense to test Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's stingy defense

Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review - Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Joshua Churchin tackles Tussey Mountain's Daniel Taylor in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal playoff game Friday, November 29, 2013, at Hampton High School.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Sidney Davis  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Joshua Churchin tackles Tussey Mountain's Daniel Taylor in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal playoff game Friday, November 29, 2013, at Hampton High School.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review - Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Jarred Fragapane (44) and Ronnie Meder (13) tackle Tussey Mountain's Darrin Sipes in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal playoff game Friday, November 29, 2013, at Hampton High School.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Sidney Davis  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Jarred Fragapane (44) and Ronnie Meder (13) tackle Tussey Mountain's Darrin Sipes in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal playoff game Friday, November 29, 2013, at Hampton High School.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review - Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Jarred Fragapane tackles Tussey Mountain's Daniel Taylor in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal playoff game Friday, November 29, 2013, at Hampton High School.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Sidney Davis  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Jarred Fragapane tackles Tussey Mountain's Daniel Taylor in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal playoff game Friday, November 29, 2013, at Hampton High School.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review - Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Darian Mercurio tackles Tussey Mountain's Darrin Sipes in the PIAA Class A quarterfinal on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 at Hampton High School.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Sidney Davis  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Darian Mercurio tackles Tussey Mountain's Darrin Sipes in the PIAA Class A quarterfinal on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 at Hampton High School.

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Friday's piaa class a Football Game

Clarion vs. Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic

7 p.m. at Dubois High School

Records: Clarion (14-0), Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (14-0)

Of note: Friday will be the first matchup between the teams in school history. This is also the furthest either team has advanced in the PIAA tournament. Clarion has not lost a regular-season game since Nov. 4, 2011, and set a single season record in team rushing yards this season with 4,394.

Prediction: North Catholic, 35-21.

Top high school sports
Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, 11:02 p.m.
 

Although every team must play offense and defense to win a football game, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and Clarion have reached the PIAA Class A semifinals by dominating on opposite sides of the ball.

The Clarion offense has been a statistical juggernaut this year, averaging 54 points per game. Senior quarterback John Katis has thrown for 2,083 yards and 23 touchdowns on 96 for 149 passing. Senior running back Damien Slike has rushed for 1,869 yards and 37 touchdowns, and junior Ian Corbett has added 1,247 yards and 20 touchdowns.

But North Catholic coach Bob Ravenstahl is confident his team can contain the Bobcats.

“I think we've been pretty successful at stopping both the run and the pass. It's a team effort,” Ravenstahl said. “It's just another game to (the players) to be honest with you. We're just going to keep doing what we're doing.”

North Catholic has held its opponents to just over 10 points per game, including a 14-0 shutout victory over Sto-Rox in the WPIAL championship game at Heinz Field two weeks ago.

Last week against District 5 champion Tussey Mountain, the Trojans showcased their offensive potential, as well. After falling behind early, North Catholic rattled off 48 unanswered points to cruise to a 48-7 win.

But the offensive outburst isn't the norm, said senior quarterback P.J. Fulmore, who has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and 10 TDs.

“Our offense is really patient. We'll be all right with getting 3 or 4 yards per play and not getting big plays,” Fulmore said. “That's really what our game plan is going into the game. We like to control the clock.”

Ravenstahl said he expects the game to be decided in the trenches, with both teams committed to the running game.

Last week's 35-20 victory over Lakeview was Clarion's first real challenge. The Bobcats committed four turnovers, including the first interception of the year by quarterback John Katis. He had thrown 149 straight passes without an interception.

“We've been pretty good all year at not doing those things, and obviously if we're going to have any success this Friday night we can't do it again,” Clarion coach Larry Wiser said. “We can't spot a team that many turnovers and give them the field position like we did last week.”

The WPIAL champs will be Clarion's toughest test so far, so Wiser will need his team to respond quickly should North Catholic get into a groove.

“Through every game there's going to be adversity out there and you need to be positive toward that,” Wiser said. “You get changes in momentum in a game and you can't let something take off and blossom.”

Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at ghorvath@tribweb.com.

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