No. 10 Trinity rolls past North Catholic for 1st playoff win since 2007

Friday, November 3, 2023 | 11:46 PM

Despite winning three of its last four games, including a win over perennial power Thomas Jefferson, which had just beaten 3A state champion Belle Vernon, the Trinity Hillers finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Big Seven Conference. Tiebreaker points and head-to-head results later, the Hillers ended up seeded 10th in the Class 4A postseason.

It’s a seed they weren’t too pleased with and, having not won a playoff game since 2007, Trinity took it to No. 7 North Catholic on Friday night to earn a quarterfinal date with No. 2 McKeesport next week. The Hillers ran away with a 49-0, mercy-rule win at South Fayette High School.

The first quarter went back-and-forth before Trinity (7-4) finally broke through to open the scoring on an 89-yard punt return for a score by senior Andrew Durig, which opened the flood gates for the No. 10 seed.

The return looked dead to rights around the 10-yard line, but a spin move and some dancing later, Durig found himself free and clear up the sideline before crossing the field on his way to pay dirt.

“All week we were prepping for that punt return. We knew we’d have space,” Durig said. “I was able to set up my blocks real nice. The whole time I was running around back there I was a little scared I might get tackled, but I was able to get to the sideline and down the field. I was just hoping there was no flag because I knew I was going to be dead tired at the end of it.”

When North Catholic (5-6) went back out on offense, it was Dante DeRubbo who seemingly took the air out of the North Catholic side with the first of his two interceptions on the night. After a big return, Trinity went 29 yards on six plays, capped by an 11-yard run by sophomore quarterback Jonah Williamson to make it 14-0.

“Our big-time players made plays on both sides. We were sputtering a bit offensively, but our defense dominated the game,” Trinity coach Dan Knause said.

Trinity scored three times in the third quarter. Luke Lacock punched it in from 3 yards out with 9:40 remaining in the quarter, and then the Hillers scored on consecutive offensive plays for North Catholic: a 46-yard interception return by Lacock and a 25-yard fumble return on a fumbled snap by Caden Vogel. The touchdowns on defense invoked the mercy rule and happened 17 seconds apart.

Durig added a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth, and Mekhi Bouman scored on a 10-yard touchdown run as the new quarterback with 1:28 to go.

“Those guys showed up to play. They executed their game plan well and my hat goes off to them,” North Catholic coach Chris Rizzo said. “Obviously you want the ball to bounce a different way but (the start) was a little deflating.”

Durig finished as the game’s leading rusher, amassing 78 yards on 12 carries, while Williamson chipped in 77 yards on 16 carries. Both scored a rushing touchdown. Williamson was 7 for 20 through the air for 59 yards and was intercepted once. Bouman finished with six carries for 30 yards on the final drive for the Hillers while Anthony Giorgi caught four passes for 44 yards.

Trinity totaled 261 yards of offense while holding the Trojans to just 79 yards. Kaden Sarver finished 7 for 31 for 38 yards and was picked three times: twice by DeRubbo and the return TD by Lacock. He was sacked twice. Leading rusher Jack Fennell, who posted 1,275 yards on 154 carries in the regular season, was held to 36 yards on 13 carries and didn’t touch the ball in the second half.

“We just focused on Fennell. We knew they had creative ways to get him the ball,” Knause said. “We had our kids dialed in, and they played fast and physical. We’re diverse but we make it simple enough.”

Knause said the win was huge for the program: its first in the postseason in 16 years.

“It’s huge. These kids have earned it. … Six forty-five in the morning all summer,” Knause said. “I couldn’t be happier for the kids in this program because they’ve earned it.”

Now Trinity will now turn their attention to the McKeesport Tigers. In Week 4, the Hillers lost to McKeesport 35-7.

“Last game (against McKeesport) was tough. I think we turned it over five times. You can’t beat them like that,” Knause said. “That being said, we’ll look at the pockets of success and mistakes we had and look to come out physical and fast.”

Durig echoed his coach’s comments.

“(The win) was an incredible achievement and we’re all really happy right now, but we’ve got to move on to next week and fight for seven more days,” Durig said. “We need to take care of the football, finish our drives and contain their athletes on offense.”

Next week’s quarterfinal is slated for 7 p.m. at McKeesport High School.

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