North Catholic cruises past Leechburg
Leechburg had hoped to end its season on a high note after losing last week.
First-place North Catholic (7-2, 7-1) offered the Blue Devils (1-8, 1-7) little opportunity for redemption, jumping out to an early lead on their way to clinching the top spot in the Class A Eastern Conference with a 35-8 win.
It may have been Senior Night, but sophomore P.J. Fulmore was intent on being the center of attention. Fulmore ran for 46 yards as the Trojans marched down the field on a four-minute opening drive that ended in a 2-yard Jared Fragapane touchdown run.
“(Fulmore is) the heart and soul of this team,” said North Catholic coach Bob Ravenstahl. “He's really stepped up and surprised some people, but it doesn't surprise us.”
What seemed to surprise Leechburg was how North Catholic used the no-huddle offense to methodically run time off the clock in the first half.
However, the Blue Devils' defense rose to the occasion, creating two turnovers inside their own 30-yard line despite allowing Fulmore to gain 128 yards on 22 carries in the first half alone.
“We played a different defense tonight than we did the rest of the year,” said Leechburg coach Mark George. “We wanted to catch them off guard. The guys were pretty fired up about it, and I thought they executed pretty well.”
While the Leechburg defense created timely turnovers, the offense couldn't hold onto the ball.
“Mistakes killed us,” George said. “A fumble and interception that led to two touchdowns. If we hold onto the ball in those situations instead of giving them the ball inside the 20, we would have had a better chance.”
After holding North Catholic to one score in the first quarter, Leechburg had several opportunities to take control of the game. But after forcing a turnover on downs in the second quarter, the Blue Devils fumbled, and Josh Churchin returned it to the Leechburg 23. Fulmore later ran it in from the 4.
Quarterback Adam Sharlow scored from 3 yards out with 36 seconds remaining in the half to give the Trojans a 19-point lead.
Leechburg's lone touchdown came on a 52-yard pass from Tyler Dubovi to Jacob Lellimo.
“We knew we were playing the conference champs tonight,” George said, “and we played hard.”
Jonathan Cyprowski is a freelance writer.