ADAMS TWP — Speed kills.
So do turnovers. And penalties. And losing your starting quarterback.
Lucky for the North Catholic football team, speed can make up for a lot of mistakes and bad breaks.
Despite five turnovers, two leading to Freeport touchdowns, and a slew of flags and a thumb injury to Joey Prentice, the Trojans' smothering defense kept Ben Lane and the Yellowjackets' offense largely in check on the way to a 26-14 Allegheny Seven Conference win at Mars Athletic Complex Friday night.
“Our defense has speed,” said North Catholic coach Patrick O'Shea. “We're blessed with that.
“It was one of those nights — it had a foggy feel to it,” O'Shea added. “We didn't play the way we know we can. But in the end we were able to figure out how to get it done. It was a foggy win.”
North Catholic (7-0, 6-0) held Freeport to 31 yards of offense in the first half and had a 14-0 lead.
But one of several bad snaps was smothered by Elijah Freeman at the North Catholic 21. On the first offensive play, Lane found Vinnie Clark in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown with little more than a minute left in the first half.
Freeport tied it up at 14-14 on another North Catholic turnover.
Prentice, who had returned to the game after dislocating his thumb in the first half, was intercepted by Jackson Reiser, who returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.
Suddenly, despite generating fewer than 100 yards on offense up to that point, Freeport (3-2, 3-1) was looking at a brand new game.
“I'll take my kids over anybody's,” said Freeport coach John Gaillot. “We had five starters out. Our boys, they fight to the end.”
North Catholic lost four fumbles — three on bad snaps out of the shotgun.
The Trojans were missing senior starting center Jack Friel for the second straight week.
“Any time you lose a senior, whether it's a lineman or anyone else, you know it's going to take a little bit of time to get things going,” O'Shea said.
North Catholic also ended up losing Prentice.
He stalked the sideline with an icepack on the thumb of his throwing hand and lobbied to go back into the game.
Prentice did come back to start the second half and played most of the third quarter, but was lifted for Carson Laconi after the pick-6.
“Right away we knew we had another week,” O'Shea said. “It was coming somehow, whether we were going to be undefeated conference champions or going into (the playoffs) with one loss. That was probably the main factor — get him out and see if we can let the doctors look at it and see how bad it is. We have all the confidence in Carson.”
Laconi played well in relief of Prentice.
He scored on two short touchdown runs of 3 and 2 yards. He set up his first score with a 45-yard pass to Nick Maher.
He even caught a pass from himself — a pass batted back into his arms.
“I just give credit to our offensive line,” Laconi said. “They're the ones who protected me and helped me get into the end zone.”
The offense wasn't pared down for Laconi, who was in a battle for the starting job with Prentice in camp.
“I get a lot of reps at quarterback,” Laconi said. “I rotate in with Joey because you never know when Joey is going to go down.”
North Catholic also got a big boost from Kyle Tipinski, who rushed for 161 yards — including a 47-yard TD run that gave North Catholic a 14-0 lead.
Tipinski also battled a calf injury throughout the game. It has dogged him for several weeks.
He gutted it out Friday night.
O'Shea, though, wasn't happy with how chippy the game became or the five turnovers.
Both teams were flagged for numerous unsportsmanlike conduct and personal fouls in the game.
“When you turn the ball over — it doesn't matter what level of football — you're flirting with a loss,” O'Shea said.
Lane ended up with 145 yards passing, but threw two interceptions. He also led the Yellowjackets with 27 yards on 13 carries.
Freeport rushed for just 29 yards.
Clark caught seven passes for 114 yards.
The WPIAL playoff pairings were scheduled to be released Saturday night.
“We better not be a wild-card team,” Gaillot said. “We just went toe-to-toe with them.
“I could not be prouder of a group of young men,” Gaillot added. “They're skinny. They're as skinny as can be. They're warriors.”
Freeport 0 7 7 0 — 14
North Catholic 0 14 6 6 — 26
NC — Joey Prentice (Ethan Marsico kick), 11:39
NC — Kyle Tipinski 47 run (Marsico kick), 5:27
F — Vinnie Clark 21 pass from Ben Lane (Clark kick), 1:19
F — Jackson Reiser 24 interception return (Clark kick), 1:44
NC — Carson Laconi 3 run (kick failed), :18
NC — Laconi 2 run (Marsico kick), 7:18
Rushing:Freeport, Ben Lane 13-27, Brady Stivenson 1-2, Zach Clark 1-2, Logan Jendrejewski 2-2, Parker Lucas 1-(-1), TEAM 1-(-3). North Catholic, Kyle Tipinski 25-161, Joey Prentice 15-65, Dan Long 1-38, Liam Straub 2-1, Jack Fennell 2-3, Pierce Khoury 3-13, Carson Laconi 5-10, TEAM 6-(-37).
Passing:Freeport, Ben Lane 12-26-145-2, Logan Jendrejewski 0-1-0-0. North Catholic, Joey Prentice 5-12-57-1, Carson Laconi 2-2-38-0.
Receiving:Freeport, Vinnie Clark 7-114, Cole Charlton 3-24, Brady Stivenson 1-5, Mario DeVino 1-4. North Catholic, Liam Straub 2-24, Carson Laconi 2-5, Nick Maher 1-45, Tyler Maziarz 1-10, Kyle Tipinski 1-8.