Headed to Heinz

North Catholic tops Avonworth in WPIAL semi

November 22, 2021 Cranberry Local Sports

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North Catholic quarterback (1) Joey Prentice rushes from the backfield against Avonworth during their WPIAL Class 3A semifinal Friday night at Fox Chapel. Prentice scored the game's lone topuchdown in the Trojans' 7-0 victory.

O'HARA TWP — North Catholic defensive coordinator Jay Bell ran over to head coach Patrick O'Shea and ripped an invisible monkey off his back.

Following the Trojans' 7-0 win over Avonworth in a WPIAL Class 3A final Friday at Fox Chapel High School, everyone was willing to let loose. The ghosts of playoffs, which threatened to cripple North Catholic in the first half, slowly faded away behind the stout Trojans' defense.

North Catholic, which will play defending state champion Central Valley — a 51-0 winner over Elizabeth Forward — at noon next Saturday at Heinz Field, improved to 2-11 all-time in WPIAL semifinal games. The Trojans' lone victory before the win over the rival Antelopes came in 2013, when North Catholic went on to win its first WPIAL and PIAA crowns in Class A.

O'Shea said the Trojans weren't shy about talking about the past leading up the game.

“It feels awesome,” O'Shea said. “We talked about that this week, even in the locker room. These kids, we don't have a practice field, so we are always on the road practicing everywhere. We overcome adversity every week.”

Potential pratfalls loomed for the second-seeded Trojans (12-0) in the first half. North Catholic lost two fumbles, turned the ball over on downs twice and threw an interception.

Avonworth's first drive started at the Trojans' 21-yard line.

Trojans defensive back Mitch Lanthaler could feel the nerves.

“Everbody's nervous before a semifinal game,” Lanthaler said. “We came out here and trusted each other and that's how we got the win.”

North Catholic defensive lineman Tyler Primrose (52) fights past an Avonworth blocker during the TrojAns' victory.

North Catholic had to rely on its defense, which allowed Keystone Oaks to score 41 points in the quarterfinals, to bounce back and keep the Antelopes (9-3) off the board.

“We trust each other as a unit and knew we could do better than 41 points,” Lanthaler said. “We just came out here and showed we could shut out anybody. We came out and played hard.”

Avonworth's first possession, which started deep in Trojans' territory, ended in a whimper with a turnover on downs.

North Catholic held Avonworth to 190 total yards, 95 passing and receiving.

“Last week was an anamoly,” O'Shea said. “We weren't sure what occurred.It might have been 5,000 different things, you don't know. You could tell the past week in practice they were disappointed in their performance last week.”

The game was tied at zero at halftime. The Antelopes, running behind Ian Syam who finished with a game-high 109 yards rushing, advanced the ball to the North Catholic 13.

Once again, the Trojans stopped Syam on fourth-and-short, tackling him in the backfield for a 1-yard loss.

“We got down inside and they got us on second down and held up on third,” Avonworth coach Duke Johncour said. “We went for it on fourth and fell a yard short. That's the way the cookie crumbles, I guess.”

North Catholic scored the game's only touchdown on the next posession. Quarterback Joey Prentice, who finished with 181 yards passing, hooked up with Tyler Maziarz on three long pass plays, the longest of which being 34 yards.

That got the Trojans to the 1-yard line, where Prentice scored on a 1-yard quarterback keeper.

Avonworth would have two chances in the fourth quarter. Lanthaler stepped in front of a Nate Harper pass for an interception that killed a drive inside the Trojans' 20.

Harper would also throw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Schleis with 1:19 remaining, but it was called back for holding.

The Trojans defense, which was demoralized last week, shut out an Avonworth team that was scoring 32.7 points per game entering the contest.

That allowed O'Shea their recent history of coming up short behind them.

“It was a classic football game,” O'Shea said. “At any point, the game could have gone any way.”

Avonworth 0 0 0 0 — 0

North Catholic 0 0 7 0 — 7

Third Quarter

NC — Joey Prentice 1 run (Ethan Marsico kick), 1:48

Individual Statistics

Rushing: Avonworth, Iam Syam 16-109, Brandon Biagirelli 6-34, Neo Miller 2-6, Nate Harper 4-(-3). North Catholic, Kyle Tipinski 19-64, Joey Prentice 14-13, Jack Fennerll 1-3, Daniel Long 1-2.

Passing: Avonworth, Nate Harper 10-22-95-1. North Catholic, Joey Prentice 16-30-181-1.

Receiving: Avonworth, Neo Miller 3-35, Peyton Faulkner 3-28, Brandon Biaggirelli 2-24, Colin Crawford 1-8. North Catholic, Tyler Maziarz 5-69, Jack Fennell 3-43, Kyle Tipinski 3-39, Robbie Kress 1-4.

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