Erie Cathedral Prep's top two players from last year are now at Michigan State. Many other starters from last year's PIAA championship team graduated.
Thus, the thought was this Cathedral Prep team couldn't possibly be as good as the one that ended West Allegheny's season a year ago. It was a good presumption because this Cathedral Prep team isn't as good as the 2012 squad.
It might be better.
Erie Cathedral Prep 28, West Allegheny 0
West Allegheny and Erie Cathedral Prep meet in PIAA quarter final football game
Cathedral Prep flexed its District 10 muscles Friday night and ended West Allegheny's season with a 28-0 victory in a Class AAA quarterfinal at North Allegheny's Newman Stadium.
Cathedral Prep dominated throughout and ran its winning streak to 28 games, longest in the state. The Ramblers handled West Allegheny like no one has in eight years. It was the first time West Allegheny was shut out since a 35-0 loss to Thomas Jefferson in 2005. The loss means the WPIAL won't have a team in the PIAA Class AAA final for the fifth consecutive season.
The Ramblers (13-0) lived up to their nickname, rambling for 397 yards and holding down a West Allegheny running game that had been so impressive all season. Of course, it didn't help that Chayse Dillon, West Allegheny's leading rusher with 1,203 yards, didn't play because of an ankle injury from last week's WPIAL championship.
But even with Dillon, West Allegheny might have been outmanned by a team that seems to have a truckload of talented skill-position players.
A year ago, with star quarterback Damion Terry and Delton Williams, Cathedral Prep defeated West Allegheny, 27-13, in the PIAA quarterfinals. This year, the loss stopped West Allegheny's perfect season as the Indians finished 13-1.
"Comparing teams is like comparing children and I won't do that," said Cathedral Prep coach Mike Mischler. "This is a different team, a very physical team. We've got really good kids who wanted this one pretty bad, and they came out and got it."
West Allegheny coach Bob Palko said: "You couldn't shut [Terry and Williams] down last year. Now their defense is good and they're just not a good matchup for us. They run well, they're fast at all places and they've got good size. They're really good."
Quarterback Billy Fessler completed 16 of 23 passes for 209 yards and now needs only 55 to become the third quarterback in District 10 history to throw for 3,000 yards in a season. Six players caught passes.
"All of our receivers have similar stats and I think when you have that many kids, it's just very hard to defend us," said Mischler, whose team came in averaging 52 points a game. "I'm not bragging. It's just a fact. We have five all-out athletes that we can just get the ball to."
Cathedral Prep held West Allegheny to 18 yards rushing. Eight quarterback sacks took away a lot of West Allegheny's rushing yardage, but running back Tory Delmonico was West Allegheny's leading rusher with only 41 yards on 15 carries.
"I know not having Dillon was a big blow to them," said Mischler. "But our kids came in and wanted to play physical football. We were able to get in their backfield a lot and I thought we did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage."
Cathedral Prep took control in the first half, holding West Allegheny to 39 yards, 21 yards rushing on 21 attempts and only 18 yards passing.
Cathedral Prep scored on its first possession, driving 60 yards in 15 plays, capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass from Fessler to Alex Greenawalt.
Felix Manus-Schell added a 28-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds left in the first quarter.
Fessler threw for 159 yards in the first half. Cathedral Prep scored again in the third when the Ramblers blocked a punt and William Norfolk returned it 9 yards for a touchdown.
A fake punt set up Cathedral Prep's final touchdown -- a 3-yard run by Michael Parker.
"The things that were kind of disappointing were the two special teams things," Palko said.
But Palko was far from upset after a terrific season.
"The work ethic of these kids -- they were so business-like," he said. "I'm just so proud of the way they conducted business on and off the field. They have great chemistry and great friendships. If this is the worst thing that ever happened in their life, losing a playoff game, then I think they're going to be OK in life."
First Published November 29, 2013 9:54 PM