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With rivalry win in the past, Norwin turns focus to Class 6A test against No. 2 North Allegheny

September 23, 2018
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Norwin's Gianni Rizzo celebrates a big hit to force an incomplete pass during the second quarter against Penn-Trafford Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, at Norwin Knights Stadium.

There is a 24-hour rule for the Norwin football team this season.

That means the team gets one day to enjoy a win or sulk after a loss. Then, it’s time to look ahead.

Norwin (1-0) got to celebrate Saturday after its 44-36 season-opening victory Friday night against neighborhood rival Penn-Trafford in Week Zero.

The players’ focus, however, quickly turned to this Friday’s WPIAL Class 6A Conference opener against North Allegheny (1-0), which defeated Christians of Faith Academy (Ohio), 45-20.

Both teams are ranked in the Tribune- Review’s top five: North Allegheny at No. 2 and Norwin No. 4.

“After our win, we got 24 hours, and then we have to clear our heads,” said Norwin senior wide receiver Billy Kerston, who was voted a captain for this game by his teammates. “We’re 0-0 again, and we have to come out and get this win.

“We know they’re a lot bigger than us, but we have to beat them with speed, maybe on the outside and make things happen.”

Kerston caught five passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns against Penn-Trafford.

“I dropped a pass or I would have been over 100 yards,” Kerston said. “It’s a great honor to be named captain. I wasn’t sure I’d be named a captain this season because there are a lot of great players on this team. I guess I stepped up and was named captain.”

The other player voted captain was defensive tackle Christian Kubacka. He stood out on the defensive side of the ball, and he’s looking forward to battling North Allegheny’s big offensive line.

“They’re going to be a physical team; we know that coming out,” Kubacka said. “We know they’re going to try to hit us hard, and we’re going to try to hit hard back.

“It’s a great privilege to be named captain. I’ve been working towards that all summer. Can’t wait to walk out to the 50 and do the coin flip.”

Against COF Academy, the Tigers relied on their strong ground attack, led by senior Ben Maenza, who rushed for 137 yards and scored three touchdowns. The Tigers rushed for 258 yards.

“It was a great win against Penn-Trafford, but we have the 24-hour rule,” Norwin coach Dave Brozeski said. “North Allegheny is strong. We’re excited about the opportunity. It’s going to be challenging and a tough task.

“They have a big offensive line, great running game, speed on defense and solid special teams. It will be a tough task, but we’re up to it.”

North Allegheny’s defense, led by senior defensive back Joey Porter Jr., will have to deal with Norwin quarterback Jack Salopek and his receivers.

Salopek tossed four touchdown passes, two to Kerston, and rushed for 71 yards and a score. Salopek also hit Gianni Rizzo for 78 yards and Sean Pavlik for 8 yards.

“Being the underdog motivates us,” Kerston said. “People didn’t think we’d beat Penn-Trafford.”

Brozeski called Friday’s victory a “team win” because a lot of players stepped up.

“We were able to close things out when P-T came back, and I was pleased with our offense line,” Brozeski said. “For us to have success this week, No. 1 we have to take care of the ball on offense and take the ball away on defense. They’re bigger than we are, but we have to take care of our opportunities.”

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