By Chris Rossetti
DUBOIS, Pa. – A banged up Clarion team couldn’t contain North Catholic’s rushing attack, and the Bobcats season came to a close with a 39-12 loss to the Trojans in the PIAA Class A semifinals Saturday afternoon at DuBois’ Mansell Stadium.
Clarion was without 1,200-yard rusher and one of its top defensive linemen Ian Corbett (upper-body injury) and played the entire game on defense and the entire second half on offense without 1,800-yard rusher and 100-tackle linebacker Damien Slike.
“I won’t make excuses,” Clarion head coach Larry Wiser said. “We have to adjust. Everybody has to face those things during a season. We’ve been fortunate not to have to all year. It’s my job, and I failed in getting the next guys ready. They are a great football team.”
With or without Corbett and Slike, North Catholic’s offensive line may have had its way with Clarion, as the Trojans ran for 376 yards and six touchdowns.
“I’ve been saying all year it’s the best offensive line in Single A football,” North Catholic head coach Bob Ravenstahl. “They might be the best offensive line we’ve had at North Catholic to be honest with you. A lot of those kids have been playing since their sophomore year. They’ve worked hard at it.”
Without Corbett and Slike, Clarion had trouble getting a running game going and ran for just 13 yards. That forced Clarion to pass, and North Catholic was able to pressure senior quarterback John Katis, forcing him to throw three interceptions, after he threw one all season – and that last week. Katis finished the game 13 of 31 for 162 yards with two touchdowns.
“They were bringing some inside pressure,” Wiser said. “We weren’t picking it up. They were selling out, and their secondary was good enough to play zero (coverage) a lot of times and keep that pressure on John. I don’t think it was anything on our offensive line. They were just bringing one more than we had.”
North Catholic jumped all over Clarion early and often scoring three touchdowns in the game’s first 15 minutes, and it would have been four without a Cody Hearst interception in the end zone on North Catholic’s first possession. It marked just the second time this year Clarion had trailed in a game.
PJ Fulmore scored the game’s first two touchdowns on runs of one and four yards, and Jerome Turner added a 6-yard scoring run early in the second quarter to make it 22-0.
Fulmore ran 18 times for 112 yards, while Turner added 19 carries for 178 yards while Mario Latronica chipped in 94 yards on 16 carries.
“That was our game plan, to run the ball and control the clock,” Ravenstahl said.
Clarion tried to make it a game when Katis threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Slike in the front of the end zone to cut the lead to 22-6. A pair of Hearst catches were key to the drive. Hearst had 8 catches for 116 yards.
North Catholic, though, drove right back at the Bobcats and made it 29-7 with just under four minutes to play in the half on a 5-yard Fulmore touchdown run.
The game got a bit interesting at the end of the half, as the teams traded a pair of turnovers each before the clock ran out with the Trojans leading by 22.
Clarion tried to fight back in the game taking the opening kickoff of the second half and scoring on a fourth-and-goal 1-yard pass from Katis to Tyler Allen to cut the lead to 29-12.
“I was very proud of the way we came out in the second half,” Wiser said.
But North Catholic answered with a 22-yard Turner touchdown run, and Mik Trarsovich added a late field goal to set the final score.
The Trojans will take on the winner of the Old Forge-Steelton-Highspire game in the PIAA title game at 1 p.m. Friday at Hersheypark Stadium.
“We are taking it one game at a time,” Ravenstahl said. “We are excited to go to Hershey.”
Clarion, meanwhile, finished off one of the best seasons in school history with a District 9-tying 14 wins, the school’s first PIAA playoff victory and the school’s third District 9 title.
“It was a great year,” Wiser said. “Getting this far, getting into December its going to be tough to leave them today. From time football camp on, this has been a group that has been able to focus and work hard. These kids have been going 19 weeks playing football.”
NOTES – Clarion was trying to become just the third District 9 team to reach the state championship game. Keystone did so in 1989 and Smethport in 1992 … It is the second year in a row a District 9 team has lost in the semifinals. Last year, Port Allegany fell to Clairton.
NORTH CATHOLIC 39, CLARION 12
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Total
North Catholic 14 15 7 3 39
Clarion 0 6 6 0 12
Qtr Time Scoring play
1st 05:53 NC – PJ Fulmore 1 yd run (Mike Trarsovich kick), 5-36 2:19
02:24 NC – PJ Fulmore 4 yd run (Mike Trarsovich kick), 5-65 1:51
2nd 09:55 NC – Jerome Turner 6 yd run (Jarred Fragapane pass from Ryan Kirby), 6-43 2:06
07:03 CLAR – Damien Slike 7 yd pass from John Katis (Anthonio Troese kick failed), 6-60 2:45
03:57 NC – PJ Fulmore 5 yd run (Mike Trarsovich kick), 7-52 3:06
3rd 06:44 CLAR – Tyler Allen 1 yd pass from John Katis (Destin Strauser rush fumbld), 12-61 5:10
01:58 NC – Jerome Turner 22 yd run (Mike Trarsovich kick), 3-25 1:45
4th 01:58 NC – Mike Trarsovich 23 yd field goal, 10-43 6:28
FIRST DOWNS 19 12
RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 54-376 23-13
PASSING YDS (NET) 0 162
Passes Att-Comp-Int 2-0-2 31-13-3
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS 56-376 54-175
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards 2-35 6-76
Interception Returns-Yards 3-47 2-0
Punts (Number-Avg) 2-22.0 4-21.8
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 5-55 7-40
Possession Time 27:22 18:40
Third-Down Conversions 3 of 9 4 of 12
Fourth-Down Conversions 0 of 0 1 of 1
Red-Zone Scores-Chances 5-6 2-2
Sacks By: Number-Yards 2-18 0-0
RUSHING: North Catholic-Jerome Turner 19-178; PJ Fulmore 18-112; Mario Latronica 16-94; TEAM 1-minus
8. Clarion-Damien Slike 6-27; Ben Babington 1-8; Cody Hearst 3-8; Destin Strauser 3-3; Tanner
Corbett 1-2; Tyler Allen 4-0; Caleb Bailey 1-minus 1; Anthonio Troese 1-minus 4; TEAM 1-minus 12;
John Katis 2-minus 18.
PASSING: North Catholic-PJ Fulmore 0-2-2-0. Clarion-John Katis 13-31-3-162.
RECEIVING: North Catholic-. Clarion-Cody Hearst 8-116; Tanner Corbett 1-18; Anthonio Troese 1-13;
Damien Slike 1-7; Thomas Plummer 1-7; Tyler Allen 1-1.
INTERCEPTIONS: North Catholic-Ryan Kirby 2-37; Timon Gribbin 1-10. Clarion-Cody Hearst 1-0; Brendan