Highlands stifles North Catholic, ends Trojans’ conference winning streak

Friday, September 16, 2022 | 10:16 PM

All week, Highlands coach Matt Bonislawski told his team the Greater Allegheny Conference opener with North Catholic was a statement game.

Statement made.

The Golden Rams were dominant on defense and made key plays on offense on their way to a 17-7 win over the Trojans on Friday night at Golden Rams Stadium. With the victory, Highlands improved to 4-0 for the second consecutive season and, in the process, ended North Catholic’s 25-game win streak in conference play. The Trojans are 2-2.

“It was great effort and a team effort,” Bonislawski said. “We finally played together as a team. It was a huge effort. They stopped them pretty much all night, except for one pass. I’m proud of our guys. It’s a big win for the program.

“We heard enough about the conference winning streak. Our kids felt slighted a bit, and they came out and played hard.”

The Golden Rams defense was strong from start to finish. It forced North Catholic to go three-and-out on its first four possessions. It got pressure from the defensive line and linebackers all night, regularly stuffing run plays and disrupting pass plays.

Daniel Long, who transferred from North Catholic to Highlands, had multiple sacks and tackles for loss and got plenty of help from Tyler Bender and Luke Bombalski.

Long received a game ball in the postgame huddle.

Montrell Johnson and Aaran Randolph intercepted North Catholic quarterback Jason Siket in the second half.

“We’ve been wanting this game all season, and nobody wanted it more than Daniel Long,” Highlands quarterback Chandler Thimons said. “You could tell he really wanted it. I’m proud of how he played and how all of our guys played. I hope we can keep it going the rest of the season.”

If one play illustrated that it was going to be Highlands’ night, it was Landan Signorella’s 64-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter.

Thimons rolled to his right and tried to find Randolph with a pass near the sideline, but the ball bounced off Randolph high and into the air. The ball landed in the waiting arms of Signorella a few yards down the field with no one around him, and he took off for the end zone.

“I said to Coach (Bonislawski) that we should put an extra guy behind them if it’s going to work out like that,” Thimons said with a laugh. “We should do that all season.”

Thimons finished with 133 yards passing, and Bombalski had 110 yards rushing.

The Golden Rams got on the board on their second possession after a 12-play drive that spanned 74 yards. Bombalski ended it with a 4-yard touchdown run. He also had a 16-yard reception on a fourth-and-10 that kept the drive going.

Highlands also had an eight-play drive in the second quarter that culminated in a Burton Babinsack 29-yard field goal. The big play on that drive was Thimons’ 30-yard run on a third-and-16 down to the North Catholic 16-yard line.

North Catholic’s lone touchdown came on a 38-yard strike from Siket to Luke Baker in the fourth quarter.

Siket passed for 120 yards.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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