North Catholic clinches share of title with win over Deer Lakes
With the WPIAL playoffs right around the corner, the North Catholic football team wanted to keep rolling.
The Trojans did just that as they jumped out to a four-touchdown lead on Deer Lakes after the first quarter, held a 47-point advantage at halftime and finished off a 64-3 victory in the regular-season finale at Deer Lakes’ Lancers Stadium.
North Catholic, which completed the regular season 9-1 overall, came into the game having outscored its last four opponents by a combined 187-7, including 138-0 the past three weeks, since its only loss of the season, a 27-0 setback to Derry.
“It’s a good feeling,” Trojans coach Pat O’Shea said. “A couple of weeks ago, we talked about tightening some things up. Last week and this week was about doing some fine tuning. It thought we played very well (Friday). But next week, the playoffs start, and it’s only an eight-team field. Whoever we get is going to be good, so we have to be ready.”
With victories Friday, the Trojans, Derry and Elizabeth Forward finish as Big East Conference tri-champions with 7-1 records.
Tiebreaker points were used to determine place finishes for the playoffs. Derry came in with a three-point lead over North Catholic. Both teams received 10 points for their victories, giving Derry the final advantage.
To determine second place, head-to-head between North Catholic and Elizabeth Forward was used. The Trojans beat the Warriors 27-0 on Oct. 5 to come out on top in that tiebreaker.
North Catholic’s offense was potent from the start Friday. The Trojans finished the first half with 403 total yards -- 250 on 21 rushes and 153 passing from quarterback Zack Rocco.
Anthony Servanti carried the ball seven times for 136 yards and two touchdowns, and Cameron Branch added eight carries for 72 yards. Rocco threw a pair of touchdowns to Nick Maher and connected with Nikhai Hill-Green and Rashod Allen for scores.
Rocco added a 35-yard TD run in the first half, and Will Kunzmann booted a 24-yard field goal.
“North Catholic is good. They have talent all over the field,” Deer Lakes coach Tim Burk said. “They have many options. About five plays in, I had four freshman out there. We were struggling. I feel bad putting my (younger) kids in against a group like that. They’re big, athletic and strong. It’s tough.”
The North Catholic defense limited Deer Lakes to 25 yards in the first half and forced four Lancers turnovers -- three fumbles and one interception. The Trojans converted three of the miscues into 21 points.
“At one point, we had four sophomores on the line trying to stop those big dudes,” Burk said.
“Their linebacker, No. 41 (Hill-Green), is amazing. He’s only a junior. We get to deal with him next year.”
Deer Lakes moved the ball late in the second quarter as quarterback Aris Hasley found tight end Colin Kadlik on back-to-back completions totaling 42 yards to the North Catholic 36.
But the drive stalled there, and kicker Nick Caro was called upon to convert a 39-yard field goal.
The three points snapped a nine-quarter scoring drought.
Hasley finished 4 of 13 for 51 yards and a pair of interceptions.
North Catholic began subbing its starters at the start of the second half as the mercy-rule running clock took effect. Deer Lakes did the same.
Matt Miller and Liam Straub each scored rushing touchdowns in the second half to set the final.
“The guys gave the best effort they could for the whole game, and I appreciate that,” Burk said. “We close this chapter, and we have to get ready for next year with the returning guys. I feel really bad for the seniors. It’s a tough way to go out.”