North Catholic embraces new challenge in Class 4A

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Sunday, August 14, 2022 | 12:01 PM


North Catholic enters the 2022 season in a new classification with a different home field, a new offensive coordinator, a new quarterback and many new starters.

But the Trojans bring back one familiar, time-tested objective — winning football.

“I think ultimately (rebuilding) is a realistic word,” coach Patrick O’Shea said. “I don’t know if we have to rebuild on a grand scale. … We have our work cut out for us. But in my five years, every time the seniors move on, they leave us in a very good place. I think we will be OK.”

The Trojans, who moved up to Class 4A during the enrollment-based offseason realignment, graduated six first-team all-conference selections and return only a handful of starters.

They will try to continue a winning tradition that has seen the Cranberry Township school go 34-1 in conference play since 2017 and reach last season’s WPIAL Class 3A title game, where they lost to Central Valley, 52-15, for the only blemish on a 12-1 season.

“I had this fire from losing in the WPIAL championship,” senior running back/defensive back Chase Arrington said. “I’ve just been working nonstop. We’ve got a young team this year, so we are still developing. But we’re looking good.”

Arrington, whose cousin is former WPIAL and North Hills great LaVar Arrington, carried 28 times for 214 yards and four touchdowns last season while playing through a leg injury.

“I think he’s ready to have a great senior year,” O’Shea said.

Other returning starters include junior running back Jack Fennell, who last season rushed for 473 yards and six touchdowns and caught 25 passes for 332 yards and four TDs; senior linemen J.J. Iaquinta and Justin Smith; senior linebacker Shamus Straub and sophomore end Brady O’Hara.

Two juniors, Jason Siket and Hopewell transfer Kaden Sarver, are auditioning to replace quarterback Joey Prentice, the conference’s offensive MVP last season.

“They are both working really hard,” Fennell said. “Whoever is the starter is going to do a great job. They are both very good.”

O’Shea said the competition is “wide open,” and wouldn’t be settled until after the preseason scrimmages. Siket excelled at junior varsity the past two seasons and fared well during his limited time at varsity last year, completing 15 of 26 attempts for 340 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions.

“We are very comfortable with the guys we have there,” O’Shea said. “Ultimately, their success depends on our offensive line, and I think everybody knows that.”

Other Trojans expected to step up include senior defensive end Julian King, senior inside linebacker Tyler Cannon, junior WR/DB Gavin Kamody and junior OL Oliver Gibson.

The offense will be under the guidance of new coordinator Ron Balog, the former Quaker Valley head coach. O’Shea said the attack will be “a little more run-driven” than in the past.

North Catholic, which will return to J.C. Stone Field in North Park this year after playing home games the past four seasons primarily at new conference rival Mars, is eyeing an 11th consecutive WPIAL playoff berth out of a new conference. The Trojans moved up from Class 3A, and now compete in the Greater Allegheny against Armstrong, Hampton, Highlands, Indiana, Kiski Area and Mars.

The Trojans will also face an ambitious nonconference schedule that features defending WPIAL and PIAA 4A champion Aliquippa, defending WPIAL 2A champion Serra Catholic as well as Avonworth in a rematch of last year’s 7-0 North Catholic victory in the WPIAL 3A semifinals.

“I think everybody down here understands that it is going to be an unbelievable challenge each and every week, and we are going to embrace that,” O’Shea said after Aug. 9 practice. “These guys know what’s coming, and they are excited about it.”

North Catholic

Coach: Patrick O’Shea

2021 record: 12-1, 6-0 in Class 3A Allegheny Conference

All-time record: 466-310-32

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 at Serra Catholic, 7

9.2 Shady Side Academy, 7

9.9 at Aliquippa, 7

9.16 at Highlands*, 7

9.23 Kiski Area*, 7

9.30 at Armstrong*, 7

10.7 Hampton*, 7

10.14 Avonworth, 7

10.21 at Indiana*, 7

10.28 Mars*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Joey Prentice*

93-159, 1,683 yards, 22 TDs

Rushing: Kyle Tipinski*

90-514, 7 TDs

Receiving: Tipinski*

28-499, 9 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• North Catholic has won 25 consecutive conference games dating to 2018, the longest active streak in WPIAL.

• The Trojans will play at perennial power Aliquippa on Sept. 9, the first meeting between the two schools since 1990.

• The Trojans broke through and reached the WPIAL championship last season after going 0-5 in the semifinals since 2013

• North Catholic’s four nonconference opponents (Shady Side Academy, Aliquippa, Serra Catholic, Avonworth) went a combined 42-12 last season.

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