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Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic sees a little of itself in Old Forge

Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Mario Latronica runs for 50 yards against Tussey Mountain in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal playoff game Friday, November 29, 2013, at Hampton High School.

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Old Forge (14-1)

Playoff history This is Old Forge's first PIAA championship appearance.

Coach Mike Schuback is 103-41 with three District 2 titles and nine division crowns.

Leaders Passing: Jake Manetti, 62-114-1,176, 13 TDs; Rushing: Brandon Yescavage, 298-2,597, 44 TDs; Receiving: Shane Schuback, 31-519, 6 TDs.

Starting offense

QB 12 Jake Manetti 6-0 185 sr.

RB 43 Brandon Yescavage 6-2 190 sr.

FB 32 Jorden Sekol 6-2 210 sr.

WR 33 Brandon Vahey 5-10 160 jr.

WR 3 Joey Gutowski 5-1 160 so.

LT 66 Joe Bruno 6-3 250 sr.

LG 58 Corey Souryavong 5-11 220 jr.

C 56 Troy Benson 6-0 210 sr.

RG 64 Paul Papi 6-0 228 sr.

RT 51 Ryan Paulish 6-4 300 sr.

TE 4 Shane Schuback 6-1 225 sr.

K 18 Christian Mozeleski 5-11 170 sr.

Starting defense

DE 58 Corey Souryavong 5-11 220 jr.

DE 66 Joe Bruno 6-3 250 sr.

DT 64 Paul Papi 6-0 228 sr.

DT 51 Ryan Paulish 6-4 300 sr.

OLB 22 Matt Trotta 5-9 180 sr.

ILB 32 Jordan Sekol 6-2 210 sr.

ILB 4 Shane Schuback 6-1 225 sr.

OLB 44 Bobby Rinaldi 5-10 170 jr.

DB 3 Joey Gutowski 5-1 160 so.

SS 12 Jake Manetti 6-0 185 sr.

DB 33 Brandon Vahey 5-10 160 jr.

P 4 Shane Schubeck 6-1 225 sr.

Cardinal WuerlNorth Catholic (15-0)

Playoff history This is the Trojans' first trip to the PIAA championship game.

Coach Bob Ravenstahl is 62-29 in eight seasons. After inheritng a one-win team in ‘06, he has had just one below-.500 team.

Leaders Passing: Adam Sharlow, 58-105-877, 8 TDs; Rushing: Jerome Turner, 139-1,057, 20 TDs; Receiving: Ryan Kirby, 23-391, 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 5-9 186 fr.

WR 13 Ronnie Meder 6-2 220 sr.

TE 44 Jared Fragapane 6-3 235 sr.

LT 59 Ryan Long 6-2 250 sr.

LG 54 Nick Nyman 5-8 190 sr.

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 Jared Fragapane 6-3 235 sr.

NG 54 Nick Nyman 5-8 190 sr.

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 Brenna 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
Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 10:09 p.m.

As Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic prepares for its first PIAA Class A championship game Friday at Hersheypark Stadium, watching film of its opponent, Old Forge, has been like looking in the mirror.

“To be honest with you, they look a lot like us,” North Catholic coach Bob Ravenstahl said. “This might be the fastest game in PIAA history.”

Both teams have found their identity in running the ball. North Catholic is led by juniors P.J. Fulmore and Jerome Turner, who each have rushed for more than 1,000 yards. Old Forge has leaned heavily on senior Brandon Yescavage, who eclipsed the 2,500-yard mark last week against Steelton-Highspire.

All of the top passing offenses in the state have been sent home, including Sto-Rox and the WPIAL's all-time passing leader, Lenny Williams. At this point in the season, it's no coincidence that the two remaining teams bear a striking resemblance to each other, Old Forge coach Mike Schuback said.

“I think getting this deep into the tournament you need to run the football,” Schuback said. “You can't be flicking the ball around when it gets this cold.”

By no means has either team had an easy road to the championship, but Ravenstahl hasn't been bothered by that.

“I think that made us a better team because quite a few weeks we were challenged,” Ravenstahl said. “When you face good competition, I think your players rise to the occasion.”

The Trojans have done just that. In their last three games, they've held opponents to less than seven points per game while scoring 33.

With every second of play now exponentially important, Ravenstahl has communicated to his team that his early-season commitment to giving playing time to all 35 players can't continue. He's seeing that commitment paying off though.

“I think it's helped us in the long run because some of the young kids have really been playing well,” Ravenstahl said.

One of those players is Mario Latronica. In the last two playoff games, the freshman has carried the ball 34 times for 282 yards, tripling his previous season totals.

“He came into the year a great athlete but lacked a little inexperience,” senior left tackle Ryan Long said. “He's really starting to mature into a good football player. Over the course of the year, he just adapted to the speed of high school football.”

Yescavage has been a surprise in his own right. He is a first-year starter for Old Forge, but none of his teammates doubted his ability.

“We knew the talent level he had,” Schuback said. “The problem was a lot of people don't know he got hurt in 10th grade and basically missed the whole year.”

After spending his junior year as a backup to Brian Tomasetti, now at Penn State, Yescavage has taken full advantage of his opportunity to start. His 2,597 yards and 44 touchdowns are a new Lackawanna Conference single-season record.

“He runs downhill. He seems to be a nice-sized young man, and he seems to have a passion to play football,” Ravenstahl said. “I don't know if we've faced a running back of his stature to be quite honest with you.”

With just one game left in the season — and career for several players — North Catholic has been content to keep doing what they've been doing all year.

“Our whole season, we've been learning every week that we've just got to come out and play our game to win,” Long said. “This is a big stage. This is the biggest game some of us might ever play. We're just all taking it day by day, working hard in every practice.”

After all, being who they are is what's brought the Trojans this far.

Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at

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