North Catholic booted by South Park

4 turnovers doom Trojans in WPIAL playoff setback

November 6, 2019 Cranberry Local Sports


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MCCANDLESS TWP — It was supposed to be a squib kick, but it didn't do much squibbing.

Instead, it took a series of wild bounces for South Park kicker Jaison Mikelonis.

Several North Catholic players had a shot at the bounding football down by five with two minutes left in the first round of the WPIAL 3A football playoffs.

But South Park recovered and denied any hope for the Trojans and senior quarterback Zack Rocco to orchestrate a last-minute comeback in a 32-27 loss at J.C. Stone Field Friday night.

“Well,” said South Park coach Marty Rieck before a long pause. “It worked.

“We were calling for a little bit more of a squib, but it worked out in our favor so we're not going to complain.”

Rieck won't complain, either, about the way running back Rudy Mihoces carried the ball or the way a physical offensive line blocked in front of him.

Mihoces rushed for 186 yards and scored four touchdowns — two coming in the fourth quarter — to help the Eagles rally twice for the win.

“The resiliency is there and that team that we played is a heck of a team and they are resilient as heck, too,” Rieck said.

North Catholic (8-2) showed that before the first offensive play was run.

The Trojans fumbled the opening kickoff — one of their four turnovers in the game — but forced a fumble on defense on South Park's second offensive play.

North Catholic quickly turned that into a touchdown when Rocco found Mathias Benson on a back-shoulder throw in the end zone for a 27-yard score.

The Trojans led 13-7 at halftime and 21-7 after Rocco found Nick Maher for a 16-yard touchdown in the third quarter. It appeared at that point like North Catholic was on its way to a playoff win despite its early sloppiness.

South Park (5-5) had other plans.

“I think that's a credit to South Park and their coaches,” said North Catholic coach Patrick O'Shea. “We scored that (to go up 21-7) and it looked like, hey, this very well may be our game, but they kept battling.”

South Park got a pair touchdown runs of 36 and 4 yards from Mihoces to cut the North Catholic lead to 21-20.

The Eagles took their first lead of the game, 26-21, with 4:14 remaining in the game on a 17-yard touchdown run by Nathan May.

That lead didn't last long.

On North Catholic's first offensive play after May's score, Rocco found Maher on a slant and the wideout sprinted 89 yards for a touchdown to put the Trojans up 27-26 with 3:49 remaining.

South Park didn't fold, even after Joey Prentice intercepted Eagles' quarterback Stephen Kmonk at their own 45 on their next drive.

North Catholic had a chance to put the game away on a third-and-2 at the South Park 37, but the shotgun snap to Rocco was wide to the right and the senior quarterback couldn't snag it.

South Park recovered at its own 41, and on its first offensive play, Mihoces burst up the middle for a 59-yard score to put the Eagles up 32-27.

Then the squib that wasn't sealed the deal.

“We just needed one more first down to run out the clock,” O'Shea said. “Unfortunately, we didn't get it.”

Rocco finished 10-of-23 passing for 251 yards and four touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions.

“We preach the formula of football,” O'Shea said. “One is don't turn the ball over. Two is tackle on the initial contact and three is play good special teams. We turned the ball over and didn't tackle on initial contact and that what cost us in the end.”

Rocco finished his career with more than 6,000 yards passing.

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Mike Kilroy

Mike Kilroy

I joined the Butler Eagle in January of 2000 after spending five years at the Steubenville Herald-Star and Weirton Daily Times, where I did everything from editing the sports section to knocking snow and ice off the Associated Press satellite dish. I graduated from Kent State University in 1994 with a degree in magazine journalism and a minor in skipping class. My honors include a 2007 Associated Press award for feature writing, a 2005 and 2007 Keystone award for column writing and a 2003 Golden Quill award for feature writing. I have a high game of 255 at Wii Bowling.