North Catholic Trojans earn first final appearance

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Everyone knew Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High was going to base its offense around P.J. Fulmore heading into Friday night's WPIAL Class A semifinal against Neshannock at Mars High School.

The Lancers knew what was coming.

And while they contained Fulmore on some plays, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound junior running back could not be stopped.

Fulmore rushed 42 times for 216 yards and accounted for all four touchdowns as the Trojans defeated the Lancers 27-14.

The 12-0 Trojans will meet Sto-Rox, which ended Clairton's run of five consecutive WPIAL championships with a 24-19 victory against the Bears.

Next Saturday's 11 a.m. game at Heinz Field will be the first WPIAL football championship appearance for the Trojans.

It was the second time this season North Catholic had vanquished Neshannock.

In the eighth week of the season, the Trojans held off a late Lancers charge to win 21-14.

"Our line kept opening up the holes," said Fulmore, who scored touchdowns from 4, 1, 4 and 5 yards.

"I just kept running behind them. [The line] and the fullbacks kept opening the holes."

North Catholic coach Bob Ravenstahl minced no words when describing his offensive line.

"It's the best offensive line in Single-A football and might be the best offensive line [in the WPIAL]," he said.

"Those kids come to play, and they've been playing together a long time. I'm proud of them all. We're holding together by a thread, but the effort's phenomenal."

He got no argument from Neshannock coach Fred Mozzocio.

"Their offensive line won the football game," he said.

"It never felt like we couldn't run the ball, we just didn't have the ball at times."

The game turned on several crucial plays, one of the biggest coming on the opening play of the second half.

North Catholic place-kicker Michael Tarasovich banged his kickoff off Neshannock's front line.

The ball bounced off a Lancer and was recovered by the Trojans' Jerome Turner at the Lancers' 45.

Twelve plays later, Fulmore bulled over from the 1-yard line with 6:07 left in the third quarter to give North Catholic a 14-7 lead.

The key play in the drive came on a fourth-and-6 play at the Lancers' 11 when Fulmore rolled to his right and hit Ronnie Meder with a 9-yard pass that advanced the ball to the Neshannock 2.

The Trojans then forced the Lancers into a three-and-out, and Fulmore scored again from 4 yards out to give the Trojans a 21-7 lead.

Neshannock quarterback Ernie Burkes rushed 10 times for 78 yards, including a 52-yard run in the second quarter that tied the game.

He completed 4 of 11 passes for 66 yards.

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