North Catholic thwarts Freeport upset bid

Friday, September 6, 2019 | 11:00 PM

The Freeport Yellowjackets had designs on an upset over No. 2-ranked North Catholic Friday night.

A pair of touchdowns in the final 3 minutes, 22 seconds of play lifted the Trojans (2-0, 2-0) to a hard-fought victory before a large crowd at Freeport Area Athletic Field.

An 18-yard pass over the middle from Zach Rocco to junior tight end Mathias Benson with 3:22 left and the extra point that followed gave North Catholic a 21-20 lead. When Freeport (0-2,0-2) lost the ball on downs at its 8, Rocco scored from 2 yards out for an insurance touchdown with 50 seconds to go.

“As soon as the Burrell game was over last week, we knew this was going to be a different competitor here,” Trojans coach Pat O’ Shea said. “They’re tough, tough kids. I spoke of that earlier in the week. If you don’t bring the soul part of football, that human part of football that’s real hard to tap into, we were a very flat football team from the emotional part of it. It happens all the time. But we were able to rebound and get the win.”

Rocco passed for 275 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 240-poiund senior was hard to bring down on both passing and running plays.

“We try to limit some of his runs early in the season,” O’Shea said. “He didn’t play in our two scrimmages. He was a little banged up. He picked up some huge first downs on that last drive, lowered his shoulder down, and he’s just a phenomenal leader.”

For Freeport, it was a second straight eight-point conference loss.

“The kids played their hearts out,” Yellowjackets coach John Gaillot said. “We’re down to our third string in some places, and they kept battling. They’ve given us eights quarters, and we have two losses for it.”

North Catholic took a 7-0 lead on the last play of the half on a 23-yard pass from Rocco to Anthony Serventi.

Freeport came out and took the first possession of the third period 63 yards in four plays with the first of a pair of 32-yard pass plays from Garret Schaffhauser to Brodey Woods.

After North Catholic lost the ball on downs, the Schaffhauser-to-Woods combination went for another 32-yard score. This time, however, the snap on the extra point attempt bounced in front of the holder and the Yellowjackets had to settle for a 13-7 lead.

Gaillot indicated he told his team nothing special at halftime.

“Our kids just play hard all the time,” the veteran coach said. “We’re just physical all the time. They gave me two games like that. This one’s on me.”

With the Trojans in front, 14-13, senior Alex Dudash intercepted a Freeport pass, Yellowjackets defender Luke Miller picked off a Rocco pass and raced 35 yards to put Freeport back in front, 20-14.

North Catholic’s go-ahead touchdown came on a 91-yard drive in 10 plays.

The Trojans sacked Shaffhauser seven times and Garrett King twice. Schaffhauser left the game with an injury and King replaced him on the last series.

O’Shea credited new defensive ends Kyle Tipinski and Nick Maher for the pressure on Freeport.

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