RUSSELTON — There are few teams around the WPIAL who have built momentum going into the playoffs quite like North Catholic has.
Since losing to Derry in late September, the Trojans have made mincemeat out of the rest of the Big East Conference. North Catholic continued torturing its in-conference foes by piling on Deer Lakes Friday night. The Trojans' 64-3 victory at Lancer Stadium was their fifth straight win, which clinched them a home playoff game and a piece of the conference title with Elizabeth Forward and Derry.
North Catholic has outscored their opponents by a margin of 215-10.
Trojans running back Anthony Serventi, who had a game-high 135 yards on seven carries, believed in coach Pat O'Shea's vision following the loss to Derry.
“We all bought in his system and kept working,” Serventi said. “We knew what we could do. We stuck with the program and it turned out well for us.”
Life was miserable throughout much of the night for Deer Lakes (3-6, 3-5). To open the game, North Catholic moved 64 yards in five plays, capping the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run by Serventi.
The Trojans would finish with 499 yards of total offense, including 346 on the ground.
“That was one thing we stressed all week,” O'Shea said. “We wanted the running game firing on all cylinders entering the playoffs. Again, you have a night like this, you have to be balanced.
“The one thing we said almost two years ago when I got the job was, I want to be balanced no matter what the conditions are.”
The Trojans' defense forced Deer Lakes to go three-and-out on its next two possessions. North Catholic (9-1, 7-1) added nine more points on a 24-yard field goal by Will Kunzmann and a 42-yard touchdown by Serventi on its next two possessions.
Offensively, the Lancers had a rough go. Riley Luniewski led Deer Lakes with nine yards rushing. As a team, the Lancers finished with minus eight.
“They're good,” Deer Lakes coach Tim Burk said of the Trojans' defense. “They have talent all over the field. They have many options. Unfortunately tonight, about five plays in, I had four freshmen out there. We were struggling. I felt bad putting my kids in against a group like that.”
Things didn't get any easier for the Lancers, who had been shut out in their two previous games. Riley Luniewski fumbled, which was recovered by North Catholic's Nikhai Hill-Green. Hill-Green then caught a touchdown pass four plays later.
On the ensuing kickoff, Deer Lakes fumbled again. The Trojans capitalized on their next play from scrimmage. Quarterback Zack Rocco faked a handoff and went 35 yards for a touchdown, stretching the lead to 29-0 with 1:36 left in the first quarter.
“Coach (Jay) Bell has a great strategy on defense,” Serventi said. “We come to work every day doing tackling circuits and everything like that. His famous phrase is 11 as one.”
North Catholic demonstrated plenty of balance on offense. While the rushing game dominated the first quarter, Rocco shined in the second.
Rocco, who finished 7-of-12 for 153 yards, tossed three touchdown passes in the second quarter, sending North Catholic into the break with a 50-3 advantage.
O'Shea wants the Trojans to keep up the momentum moving forward.
“We're 9-1, but that one loss taught us a lot of lessons,” O'Shea said. “That's the one game I talked about all week this week. We're going to face a team just as good as Derry next week.”