Former Central Catholic quarterback Michael Navarro leads St. Vincent past Thiel
Football is fun again for Michael Navarro. Or so it seems. The former Central Catholic quarterback got his first college victory under center as St. Vincent defeated Thiel, 25-22, on Saturday in a Division III matchup at Chuck Noll Field.
Navarro, a 6-foot, 185-pound sophomore from Forest Hills, proved his worth, rushing for one touchdown and passing for another for St. Vincent (1-1). He topped the 200-yard mark in passing for a second time to start the season, finishing 24 for 33 for 282 yards.
“This is Mike's second year with us, and he knows the system. He's a competitor,” St. Vincent coach Ron Dolciato said.
The results at St. Vincent have been different for Navarro than from his final season at Central Catholic, a powerful big-school program in the WPIAL. A starter at one time, he lost his job entering his senior year, when the Vikings switched to a spread offense and opted for a more athletic lineup.
“It was tough. At that point, I wasn't even sure I was going to play football in college,” Navarro said.
He decided to enroll at St. Vincent, where his family has a pedigree. A number of Navarro's relatives are tied to the college, including his great uncle, Bruce Antkowiak, who as legal counsel is head of the school's law department.
Navarro, a business major with a minor in operational excellence, wanted to attend a school where he could focus in the classroom. He said he chose St. Vincent after a meeting with Gary Quinlivan, dean of the college's Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government.
“He really sold me on the idea,” Navarro said. “I wanted a change in my life, and I thought this was a great spot to land. It's not too far from home, but it's just far enough away. I do miss home. I have a big family, and I miss them. But they're always close by no matter what.”
Navarro has moved on from high school, even though he said he enjoys the interaction with other former WPIAL players.
St. Vincent's 145-man roster includes 50 players who attended WPIAL and City League schools.
Others listed in the probable starting lineup were wide receiver Dalton Dietrich and nose tackle Anthony Sestito, from Thomas Jefferson; guard Colton Hearn and holder Adam Indof, Greensburg Salem; tackles Cullen Higgins, Fox Chapel, and Ean Eshelman, Baldwin; defensive tackle Izaak Gray, Indiana; defensive end Noah Emerick, Shaler; cornerback Le'Ton Quao, Plum; kicker Sam Elliott, Highlands; and long snapper Joe Navari, Penn Hills.
Dietrich caught six passes for 41 yards. Quao logged a key fourth-quarter interception. Gray had four tackles, including a sack and two for losses, and Elliott kicked a 25-yard field goal.
Navarro, largely inactive in his final season at Central Catholic in 2015, also sat during his freshman year at St. Vincent while then-senior Derek Stewart passed for nearly 3,000 yards.
Navarro emerged as the starter this year after a battle in the preseason with three freshmen, including Mt. Pleasant's John Yester.
“Johnny is pretty good. He pushes Mike every day,” Dolciato said. “All four of them can play (Aaron Austin and Zavion Thompson are the others), but it was simple when it came down to it. Mike performed the best in practice.”
Jhanard Dorsett rushed for 135 yards on 20 carries and scored once, and Damon Black Jr. caught a school-record 14 passes for 163 yards for St. Vincent.
Navarro, who threw one interception, was victimized by several dropped passes, but it didn't affect the outcome of the game, which featured two members of the Presidents' Athletic Conference but doesn't count in the standings because the league employs an unbalanced schedule.
That will change next year when perennial championship contender Thomas More leaves the PAC, giving the league an even football membership of 10 teams.
Nick Barca (Baldwin) led Thiel with 126 yards rushing. Ronald Brown (University Prep) completed 9 of 17 passes for 174 yards and added 49 yards rushing, and Marcus Waddy had 104 yards receiving on five receptions for the Tomcats (0-2).
Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.