North Catholic punishes Mt. Pleasant for mistakes in Class 2A matchup

Friday, October 30, 2020 | 10:26 PM

As the clock was winding down late in the fourth quarter, Mt. Pleasant coach Jason Fazekas said to his assistants he felt like the score was a lot closer than the scoreboard indicated.

Fazekas liked plenty of what his team did Friday night, but critical mistakes and missed opportunities were too much to overcome against a dynamic North Catholic offense in a 35-14 loss in in the Class 3A quarterfinals at the Mars Athletic Complex.

The No.2 Trojans advanced to play No. 3 Elizabeth Forward in the semifinals next Friday.

“I thought we had the ball a lot tonight, and we moved it tonight, and I thought we stopped them well enough on defense,” Fazekas said. “But we had a couple key penalties. We had a fumble, and there were a couple of times where they scored when I thought we had them, but we just didn’t make the tackle. I thought we were in it, but there were a couple of key plays where it ended up getting out of reach.”

The Vikings (4-4) fell behind North Catholic (8-0) 21-7 in the first half and had a couple of opportunities to cut into the lead prior to halftime, but they fizzled out.

Donavin Blair caught a 40-yard pass from a scrambling Asher O’Connor that was called back on an illegal man downfield penalty. The Vikings stalled from there and were forced to punt.

O’Connor had a pass intercepted in the end zone on the final play of the half. The Vikings also had another turnover in the first quarter in Trojans territory when Aaron Alakson fumbled.

“Right before the half, when we stopped them there as we were going to the locker room, two of our seniors said, ‘Coach, we needed that,’” North Catholic coach Pat O’Shea said. “That was a character builder for us, because we haven’t been in that position too many times. You practice those situations, and it was the first time we got to execute it. And any time you can shut down a drive with a turnover, that’s an emotional swing.”

North Catholic quarterback Joey Prentice found Nicholas Maher, who made a catch while falling on his back in the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown on the Trojans’ opening possession.

Mt. Pleasant responded with a long drive featuring seven runs that was capped by a Robbie Labuda 19-yard score that tied the game 7-7.

Labuda led the Vikings with 160 yards rushing and had both touchdowns.

On the first play of the second quarter, Maher turned a short screen on a fourth-down play into a 34-yard touchdown. Kyle Tipinski added a 26-yard run midway through the frame.

Tipinski added another touchdown in the fourth on a 22-yard run.

Prentice played with a hand injury he suffered last week against Freeport and passed for 156 yards and rushed for 94.

The Vikings’ second-leading rusher, Pete Billey, was injured in the first quarter and did not return. He had 370 yards and five touchdowns entering Friday’s game.

Fazekas thanked his seniors for their efforts in the postgame huddle and spoke of the vision he has for the future.

“Three years ago, we were 2-8 and missed the playoffs, and we’re a program that isn’t used to missing the playoffs,” Fazekas said. “For us to make it the last two years … I told the seniors that they did a good job helping bridge that gap. What I told our guys, though, is that we need to start winning this game and the one we lost last week and the week before. I feel like we’re really close to taking that next big step.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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