North Catholic’s quick-strike offense too much for Burrell
After two early turnovers, North Catholic got its offense in high gear.
The Trojans, ranked No. 2 in Class 3A this week, scored on six consecutive possessions to roll past Burrell, 41-7, in the Big East Conference opener for both teams.
Zack Rocco passed for 297 yards and five touchdowns, all in the first half. Tyree Brown caught three passes for 142 yards -- all resulting in touchdowns.
About the only negatives for North Catholic (2-0, 1-0) were a fumble at the Burrell 1-yard line early and a muffed punt several plays later.
“If you take away the fumble at the beginning, that’s something we have to learn not to do,” Trojans coach Pat O’Shea said. “We did the same thing last week. But the teaching moment is how we respond as a football team, and we responded tonight in a way that made the coaches and I proud.”
After Burrell failed to make the sticks on a fake punt, Rocco went to work quickly, firing a 44-yard pass to Brown to open the scoring with 4 minutes, 8 seconds left in the first period.
Upon starting its next possession at the 37, Rocco passed to Nikhai Hill-Green on the first play, and the Trojans were on their way.
Two scoring passes to Brown of 33 and 65 yards, respectively, sandwiched a 20-yard touchdown pass to Rashod Allen. A 9-yard run by Cameron Branch with 3:50 left in the half, again on a first play of a possession, concluded the North Catholic scoring.
“The defense went out and got the ball back for us, and things started clicking,” O’Shea said. “The hard part is you take the starters out at halftime. It’s the right thing to do. I wish we had a few more reps to prep for next week.”
North Catholic has scored 90 points in its two games this season.
Burrell slipped to 0-2, 0-1.
“I thought early on we had some opportunities,” Bucs coach Shawn Liotta said. “We forced turnovers. We had things go our way. We had some fourth-and-shorts. We couldn’t convert. We faked a punt and didn’t get it. We couldn’t get any momentum.”
North Catholic’s defense was stellar, tackling Burrell nine times for losses. Carson Primrose recorded two sacks.
“The defensive staff, coach (Jay) Bell, the coordinator, prepared those kids for everything that we’re going to see,” O’Shea said. “More important, they prepare them in the basic fundamentals of defense. I look at them and say they have a chance of being one of the better defenses I’ve seen in 27 years of coaching.”
One bright spot for Burrell was Seth Fischbach, who had six receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown with 3:55 to go.
The Bucs have been beset by injuries, including one to wide receiver/linebacker Andrew Bigler.
“They have some great individual athletes,” Liotta said. “They have a very veteran team. We have a young team. We had three freshmen starting in different spots tonight.”
Burrell will travel to Elizabeth-Forward next week while North Catholic faces Freeport in an early conference showdown at Mars High School, the Trojans home field for this year.
George Guido is a freelance writer.