ADAMS TWP — North Catholic's senior class may be small, but its presence is mighty.
After helping win a Class A conference title as freshmen and a Class AA title last year, the seven seniors have their sights set on a Class AAA championship this season.
They and the rest of the Trojans took another step toward that goal Friday in a 41-0 victory over visiting Yough on Senior Night at the Mars Athletic Complex. Head Coach Patrick O'Shea said the emotion of the night was evident before kickoff, but it played in his team's favor.
“It's a tribute to those seven (seniors) who have worked hard,” he said.
O'Shea's team came out firing and appeared to score on the second play from scrimmage on a 51-yard touchdown pass. A holding call negated the score, and the Trojans eventually failed to convert on fourth down.
It took them nearly the rest of the quarter to get back on track, as junior Anthony Serventi found the end zone from five yards out with 44 second left.
“We go down and we score, it gets called back and all of sudden it got real flat, real flat,” O'Shea said. “It got flat on the sidelines, it got flat in the stands. It took us a little while to get moving again.”
The Trojans (8-1) settled in after that, taking a 27-0 lead into the half thanks to touchdown runs by Serventi and seniors Rashod Allen and Cameron Branch.
Meanwhile, the visiting Cougars (3-7) mustered just two first downs in the first half and never threatened to score. All told, the North Catholic defense held Yough running back Dustin Shoaf — who came into the week with more than 1,700 yards on the ground — to 75 yards, a season low.
“Their defense is a good defense,” said Scott Wood, Yough head coach. “Our offensive line just wasn't getting their keys, they weren't making the blocks they needed to.”
O'Shea said his team — which is allowing slightly over 8-points-per-game — set a goal of pitching three straight shutouts, which it achieved Friday.
Meanwhile, the Trojan offense continued the onslaught in the second half, with quarterback Zack Rocco finding sophomore Nick Maher from 38 yards out. Maher appeared to fumble at the goal line, though the ball was recovered by a Trojan teammate. Officials eventually gave the score to Maher to put a running clock into effect.
Branch, a senior, capped off the scoring early in the fourth quarter with a 6-yard scamper. He finished with nine carries for 118 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, in addition to three receptions for 52 yards.
“I just wanted to make this a special night not just for me, but for the rest of the seniors,” Branch said.
Serventi added 68 yards and two touchdowns of his own on the ground, while Rocco chipped in with 42 yards on the ground and another 124 through the air.
The near-pristine effort wasn't without its flaws, with O'Shea pointing to the early offensive sluggishness and penalties as areas of focus moving forward.
“In the playoffs, that could be the difference in a win or loss,” he said of the penalties.
He added the focus for the week had been to “fine-tune” his team's performance, which will continue Friday when the Trojans visit Deer Lakes.