South Park shocks North Catholic in Class 3A barn burner

Saturday, November 2, 2019 | 12:27 AM

South Park scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a clutch 59-yard run up the middle by Rudy Mihoces with just over two minutes left in the game, to stun North Catholic, 32-27, in a WPIAL Class 3A first-round playoff upset Friday night at J.C. Stone Field in Allison Park.

Mihoces finished with 185 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries.

“Rudy is the heart and soul of this team,” South Park coach Marty Rieck said. “That kid would do anything that we would ask him to do. You could tell by the look in his eyes that if he got shot he was going to take it and he was able to take advantage of it.”

With third-seeded North Catholic holding a 27-26 lead late in the fourth quarter, senior quarterback Zach Rocco fumbled a snap and could not regain control of the ball, which was recovered by a swarm of South Park defenders with 2 minutes, 14 seconds to play, setting up Mihoces’ long run.

Eighteen points were scored in the last 4:15 of the game.

Sixth-seeded South Park scored on two rushing plays to open the fourth, a 3-yarder by Mihoces and a 17-yarder by Nathan May, to gain a 26-21 advantage.

North Catholic responded with a touchdown pass from Rocco to Josh Maher for 90 yards to take a 27-26 lead.

Rocco finished 11 for 24 with 255 passing yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Maher had six grabs for 134 yards and two touchdowns.

Sophomore defensive back Joey Prentice made an interception on the following drive with 2:37 remaining, seemingly wrapping up the game until the fumbled snap gave the Eagles an opportunity to score.

“Our guys had the mindset that they weren’t going to quit,” Rieck said. “We were waiting (for an opportunity) after some of the breaks went (North Catholic’s) way. We were able to take advantage.”

The scoring plays were not the only part of the game that went back and forth.

The game started with consecutive turnovers, one from each team.

North Catholic coach Pat O’Shea knew turnovers and other costly mistakes would make the difference in the game.

“The fourth quarter was a game in and of itself and it’s that part of high school football that brings people out to the games,” he said. “At any moment, it could have tilted our way, but it was the same thing for (South Park). We fumbled the snap (in fourth quarter) and they capitalized on it. You can’t do that in the playoffs and expect to win.”

The first turnover came on the opening kickoff as sophomore Liam Straub fumbled and the ball was recovered by a gang of South Park defenders at the Trojans’ 35-yard line.

On the following play, Mihoces lost control of the handoff, which led to Maher recovering at the 40-yard line.

The Trojans capitalized on the turnover with a drive that was capped off by a 25-yard touchdown connection from Rocco to junior Mathias Benson a little over four minutes into the game for the first score.

South Park responded with a first-quarter touchdown of its own on a Mihoces 11-yard touchdown scamper with around three minutes remaining in the period. The scoring drive was highlighted by a 29-yard run from May.

Rocco connected with running back Anthony Serventi on a deflected touchdown pass for 33 yards with 6:29 remaining in the second to give the Trojans a 13-7 halftime lead.

Both teams experienced multiple botched handoffs and snaps that were ultimately recovered by the offense throughout the game.

North Catholic (8-2) carried the momentum into the second half on a 15-yard pass from Rocco to Josh Maher 1:34 into the third quarter to put the Trojans ahead 21-7.

South Park (5-5) moves on to play second-seeded Aliquippa (10–1) next Friday at 7 p.m. with a site to be determined.

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