North Catholic rode a Fulmore and a fullback to an upset win against No. 3 Rochester Friday night at Dormont Stadium in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals.
The Trojans (9-2) held for a 22-15 win and advanced to the WPIAL semifinals thanks in large part to sophomore running back P.J. Fulmore and junior fullback Jarred Fragapane.
When they needed points and a big defensive play they turned to Fulmore. He accounted for all three North Catholic touchdowns, two rushes and one receiving, and made two of the biggest defensive plays of the game, intercepting a pass in the end zone in the first quarter and breaking up another in the fourth.
When North Catholic needed to put the game away, it turned to the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Fragapane. He took direct snaps on two fourth-and-1 conversions in the fourth quarter and converted the first down, the second of which allowed the Trojans to line up in an improbable victory formation.
Rochester (9-2) had reached the WPIAL semifinals the past four seasons and 11 of the past 12. The Rams had never lost to an Eastern Conference team in the current format, going 6-0 against the conference since 2008, including a 14-7 win against North Catholic in the '09 WPIAL Class A semifinals.
"We know them, they know us," North Catholic coach Bob Ravenstahl said. "Of course we went into the game as underdogs; you're always going to be an underdog when you go up against a Rochester team."
Ravenstahl's team never played like underdogs, and he didn't coach like one. The Trojans played conservatively for most of the game; it was the Rams who were forced to take chances, going for it on fourth down four times and converting only two.
After Rochester scored to make it 16-8, Fulmore answered again with a 7-yard touchdown run to put North Catholic up, 22-8. Rochester rallied back when Ben Richko found Alyjah Elmore on a 24-yard touchdown pass with 7:33 to play.
"We got consistency and then all of a sudden the penalties and turnovers hurt," Rochester coach Gene Matsook said. "In the playoffs you cannot turn the football over. We couldn't sustain drives, and if you keep a team in the game long enough, they will beat you in the end."