North Catholic football shows off balance in rout of Freeport

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Saturday, September 8, 2018 | 12:09 AM


Freeport coach John Gaillot knew North Catholic was a talented team from watching film all week, but he was even more impressed with the Trojans after seeing them in person.

The Class 3A No. 2 Trojans flexed their muscle on both sides of the ball, displaying a quick-strike attack and a swarming defense in a 40-8 win over Freeport in a Big East Conference game Friday night at Mars Athletic Complex.

North Catholic forced four first-half turnovers and scored three times on one-play drives on its way to a 40-0 lead at halftime. Quarterback Zack Rocco was 9 of 11 passing for 242 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half. Nikhai Hill-Green, the No. 3-ranked player in Pennsylvania for 2020 by Rivals.com, had 135 yards receiving, two touchdowns and a key deflection that led to an interception in the first quarter.

“I haven’t seen that much talent on one team in the 11 years that I’ve been here other than maybe (Greensburg Central Catholic) in 2008-09,” Gaillot said. “(GCC) had some really talented players then when we played them, and (North Catholic) is right up there with them.

“I’m proud of the way we fought, but they were loaded talent-wise.”

Freeport (0-2, 0-2) started the night on a good note, forcing a turnover on a Cameron Branch fumble near midfield on North Catholic’s first possession, but the Trojans took the ball back three plays later, when Hill-Green tipped an Austin Romanchak pass that was intercepted by Anthony Sereventi.

On the next play, Rocco found an open Hill-Green down the middle of the field for a 33-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring.

Freeport looked like it was in position to tie the score later in the first after a thrilling 89-yard run by Romanchak that set up first-and-goal, but North Catholic (3-0, 2-0) forced a Ricky Hunter fumble on the next play and recovered.

Rocco hit Hill-Green with a pass that went for a 93-yard touchdown on the next play to make it 14-0, and the Trojans rolled from there.

North Catholic coach Pat O’Shea was unhappy with the early fumble by his team because it was the third week in a row the Trojans had an early turnover, but he was pleased with how his team responded.

“We love the fact that we were able to bounce back from bad plays, but we wish we didn’t have to, to be quite frank,” O’Shea said. “We didn’t put our head down, but those are mistakes that we are doing to ourselves, and we have too many games against good teams left to keep making those mistakes.”

The Yellowjackets played without senior linebacker/running back Conor Selinger, who is dealing with an ankle injury. His status is week-to-week.

Eamon Straub had a pair of rushing touchdowns for the Trojans in the second quarter, and Rocco found Isaac Peterson and Rashod Allen with scoring passes.

Rocco, a junior, has 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions through three games.

“Two weeks in a row, Zack has checked out of a play and communicated it to the rest of the team and those plays have helped us,” O’Shea said. “It’s attribute to him and the rest of the offense that everybody is focused in practice and making progress. To us coaches, it’s refreshing to be around a group of young people that embrace learning.”

Jewlius Barnes had a 2-yard TD run in the fourth quarter for Freeport’s lone score.

Freeport hosts Elizabeth-Forward next Friday.

“We’re going to take these last two games and flush them,” Gaillot said. “We have six conference games left, and we have to take them one at a time.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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