The road to relevancy has been a sometimes long one for Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, but with two games remaining in the regular season, this much has been proven -- the Trojans belong among the best in their classification. Eight years after finishing 1-9, North Catholic is 7-0, its first undefeated start through seven games since 1997, and is No. 2 in the Post-Gazette's Class A rankings. After a 41-12 victory last week against Wilkinsburg -- coached by Mike Fulmore, the father of Trojans star running back P.J. Fulmore -- a stiffer challenge awaits Friday with a non-conference game against No. 3 Neshannock, the latest obstacle in a path the team hopes ends at Heinz Field, a destination which it fell a game short of last season.
Filling the void
CWNC's successful start hasn't been entirely unexpected, due in large part to the expectations surrounding a prominent face on offense, Fulmore, who rushed for 1,820 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2012. But in the Trojans' first game, Fulmore sustained a high ankle sprain, an injury which forced him to miss the next four full games. But in Fulmore's absence, the Trojans continued winning and putting up big scores, averaging 48.3 points per game. How exactly did they do it? With the help of running back Jerome Turner, 568 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, and quarterback Adam Sharlow, 1,349 total yards and 11 touchdowns. "Our philosophy is that if someone can't go, then someone else is going to fill in," coach Bob Ravenstahl said. "Obviously Jerome did very well running the ball and I think Sharlow is developing into one of the better quarterbacks in Single-A football."
A high-powered connection
When discussing Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, it's impossible to ignore something as simple as the coach's last name. Indeed, Bob Ravenstahl is the father of Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl. The elder Ravenstahl is in his eighth season as the Trojans' coach and has compiled a 54-29 record. Interestingly enough, the last time the Trojans were this good was when Luke was the team's quarterback. In 1997, almost a decade before his father was the head coach, he completed 52 of 96 passes for 1,002 yards as his team went 10-1, with its lone loss coming in the WPIAL semifinals to Brownsville.
A new home
Aside from their record, the Trojans' 2013 season is significant because it is their last at the school's current location on Troy Hill overlooking the Allegheny River. Beginning next school year, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic will be moving to a soon-to-be-completed campus in Cranberry. The change should be a beneficial one, as one of the smallest schools in Class A will have a facility that can accommodate as many as 1,200 students. That could mean that in a few years, the Trojans would move up to a higher class. "There's a lot of excitement about it," Ravenstahl said. "I think it's going to be a great school. I haven't personally been on site yet, but I've heard it's almost like a small college campus."
A long lineage
For all the changes that Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic has experienced -- from its recent success to the new school next year -- one thing has remained a constant over Ravenstahl's tenure: There has been a member of the Long family on his team. This year, it's senior offensive lineman Ryan Long. In previous years, he has coached Ryan's cousins Martin (graduated in 2011), Jesse (2010), Matt (2009), Joe (2009) and Fran (2007). The 2007 and 2008 teams featured four Longs on their rosters.
First Published October 17, 2013 8:00 PM