North Catholic motivated after falling short in WPIAL postseason

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020 | 10:26 PM


The North Catholic football players are motivated by how their 2019 season ended.

The Trojans had great expectations last season, and through the regular season, they fulfilled those expectations. They won eight of nine games with their only loss coming against WPIAL Class 3A champion Central Valley. They captured the Big East Conference title after averaging 33.6 points per game.

But the Trojans fell short in the playoffs, losing to South Park, 32-27.

They vowed to bounce back this season.

“It’s definitely motivation for us, and we have South Park on our schedule this year too, so that’s a game that’s definitely marked on our schedule,” senior wide receiver Nick Maher said.

North Catholic will have to replace starting quarterback Zach Rocco, who threw for 1,814 yards and 25 touchdowns while completing 62% of his passes as a senior. It’s tough to step in for a three-year starter, but North Catholic coach Patrick O’Shea has two viable options.

Juniors Joey Prentice and Carson Laconi split snaps during offseason workouts.

Prentice was the backup behind Rocco last season and completed 3 of 5 pass attempts for 91 yards and a touchdown. Laconi was a reserve wide receiver.

“They have the same skillset Zach had. They are not as physically built as Zach, but they are athletes,” O’Shea said. “We haven’t had the time with the shutdown to even consider who it might be right now, but once we make the decision, it might change our play-calling a little bit. There might be some things that we didn’t run last year, that we run this year since we have a different quarterback in there.”

Whoever wins the starting quarterback position will have several athletes surrounding him — Nick Maher, Jaren Thimons, Pierce Khoury, Isaiah Jackson and several others will step in at skill positions this season.

Maher was North Catholic’s leading receiver last season with 46 receptions for 853 yards and 12 touchdowns. Thimons also tallied 191 receiving yards and averaged 10.6 yards per catch. But the talent North Catholic has at the skill positions doesn’t stop with their top guys. O’Shea believes that will be one of their strengths this season.

“We have so many kids that can play F, that can play slot receiver, that we can switch to wide outs and it becomes a little even more challenging defensively,” O’Shea said. “There is a large number of athletes and some ninth graders that are just coming in that are in the mix to get a lot of playing time.”

While the Trojans have plenty of depth at the skill spots, they have to be as strong across the line as they have been in recent years. They have to replace to standout linemen in Carson Primrose and Dominic Prentice, who had anchored the line for the past few seasons.

But what they lack in size across the line, Jackson believes they will make up for in the speed they have all over the field.

“I think we are faster than 90 percent of the teams that we are going to play,” Jackson said. “We aren’t as big as we’ve been in the past, but our speed makes up for it.”

Schedule

Coach: Patrick O’Shea

2019 record: 8-2, 8-0 in Class 3A Big East

All-time record: 446-308-32

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, at Derry*, 7

9.18, Valley*, 7

9.25, at East Allegheny*, 7

10.2, Burrell*, 7

10.9, South Park, 7

10.16, at Deer Lakes*, 7

10.23, Freeport*, 7

*Class 3A Allegheny Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Zach Rocco*

149-242, 1,814 yards, 25 TDs

Receiving: Nick Maher

46-853 yards, 12 TDs

Rushing: Anthony Serventi*

97-754 yards, 15 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• The North Catholic seniors were freshmen when coach Pat O’Shea took over the North Catholic program and have recorded a 25-4 regular season record over the past three years.

• The Trojans haven’t had a losing season since 2007 when they were playing in the WPIAL Class A Big Seven Conference and went 4-6.

• Kicker Will Kunzman returns for the Trojans after converting 32 extra-point attempts last season.

• The Trojans have to replace Anthony Serventi, who contributed 1,076 yards of offense last season and scored 15 touchdowns.

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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