Freeport pushes North Catholic to the brink but the Trojans come away victorious

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Friday, October 23, 2020 | 10:51 PM


It wasn’t pretty, but Friday night at Mars, the No. 2 North Catholic Trojans were happy to get off the field with their seventh win of the season and in turn capture the Allegheny Seven Conference title.

Despite giving up a 14-point lead to Freeport in the second half, the Trojans (7-0, 6-0) scored 12 unanswered points in a second half littered with penalty flags to cruise to a 26-14 lead and secure their undefeated regular season.

“It feels so good to be undefeated conference champs right now, especially with a win like that, where we’re down people,” junior quarterback Carson Laconi said. “So to come out like that and win a game like that, that’s huge for us.”

Laconi came into the game in the first half after Joey Prentice injured his hand on defense in the second quarter. Prentice tried to return after halftime, but after two fumbles and an interception, North Catholic coach Pat O’Shea put Laconi back into the game, and he delivered.

He controlled the ball and the clock on the offensive end. Junior Kyle Tipinski chipped in with 168 yards and a touchdown on 22 yards and Laconi scored two short-yardage touchdowns in the second half to put the game away.

“We have all the confidence in the world in Carson, and we knew he would step in and do a great job,” O’Shea said. “We just hope it (Joey’s injury) isn’t too serious.”

The Yellowjackets (3-2, 3-1) didn’t make it easy on the Trojans. They forced four turnovers in the second half, limited Prentice to just 37 yards passing and held top receiver Nick Maher to one catch, a 41-yarder that set up Laconi’s first touchdown.

“We just wear people down, and they were really winded at the end of the first half,” Gaillot said. “We came out in the second half and thought we had some things. But, it just didn’t happen.”

It was the type of performance, despite the penalty flags on both sides, that makes Freeport coach John Gaillot proud of his players.

“Our boys fight ‘til the end. I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Gaillot said. “They are skinny as can be, and they don’t care. They are warriors, and I have all the respect in the world for those kids.”

After recovering a North Catholic fumble in the second quarter, Ben Lane hit Vincent Clark with a 22-yard touchdown pass around the 5 minute, 30 second-mark of the second quarter to cut the lead to seven.

Then, on North Catholic’s fourth drive of the third quarter, the Yellowjackets had North Catholic pinned on their own 20-yard line. On the second play of the drive, Jacksen Reiser picked off Prentice and returned it 22 yards for their second touchdown of the game.

Although the Yellowjackets couldn’t find the end zone again, they feel like they proved their point to the WPIAL steering committee with the performance they had on Friday night.

“We should definitely be a wild card, we had them on the ropes and we could’ve beaten them,” Gaillot said. “I like our chances if we play them again.”

The Yellowjackets proved their worth, the Trojans won the Allegheny Seven Conference championship. But now it’s up to the WPIAL steering committee, who meets Saturday to decide the playoff brackets.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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