North Xtra: North Catholic QBs praise line play

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The relationship between a quarterback and an offensive line is a crucial one.

It's becoming quite clear as Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School prepares for this week's Class A state semifinal against Clarion that a seamless transition occurred when starting quarterback Adam Sharlow was injured in the Trojans' 21-14 non-conference victory against Neshannock in the eighth week of the season on Oct. 18.

Game time is 7 p.m. Friday at DuBois Area High School. The Trojans advanced with a 48-7 mercy-rule victory last Friday night against Tussey Mountain at Hampton's Fridley Field. Friday's winner advances to the PIAA Class A final against the winner of the other semifinal between Old Forge and Steelton-Highspire.

When Sharlow, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior from Brighton Heights sustained a knee injury in the victory against the Lancers, his role changed from quarterback to teacher and classmate P.J. Fulmore, a 5-8, 180-pound junior from the South Side, was willing to listen.

"[Fulmore] is a quick study," Sharlow said. "It didn't take him long to learn the signals, but we had to work on his passing form. But he did take quick control of the offense and the team."

Trojans coach Bob Ravenstahl said Fulmore's familiarity with taking snaps in the wildcat formation a year ago made that aspect of the game easy.

"What he had to get used to was passing the ball and getting comfortable in the pocket," he said. "He had to learn to look downfield and read coverages. Since he'd been a receiver, he knew most of the patterns."

Fulmore didn't have to pore over the playbook when he was thrust into the quarterback role.

"I knew the plays," Fulmore said. "I just had to learn to throw the ball effectively, and it got easier as I worked on my mechanics."

Fulmore showed how much he's learned as he connected with Ronnie Meder on a 50-yard touchdown pass with 1:49 left in the second quarter of the victory against Tussey Mountain.

"His passing has gotten better," the coach said. "He's come a long way in the last five or six weeks, and he's gotten better at standing in the pocket and [dealing with] pressure. He's worked a lot on standing in the pocket and with play-action. And he has a great arm. But he's still learning the position."

Right guard Josh Churchin, a 5-9, 185-pound senior from Robinson Township, said it didn't take long for he and his teammates to work effectively with Fulmore.

"We adjusted quickly," he said. "We just had to get used to a new voice [calling the signals]. We had plenty of faith in both Adam and P.J."

Perhaps the most important relationship between a lineman and a quarterback is the one established with the center. Dylan Grieco, a 5-7, 218-pound senior from Shaler, said it didn't take long for he and Fulmore to get on the same page.

"I adjusted pretty fast," he said. "It wasn't too hard because I already knew P.J.'s voice.

"It might have taken a practice or two [to adjust]. But we have a really close team, and I trust my teammates."

Occasionally, a change at quarterback means adjusting the type of offense a team is running. But because both Sharlow and Fulmore are running quarterbacks, left tackle Ryan Long, a 6-2, 250-pound senior from Shaler, didn't notice any difference in how the Trojans are moving the ball on offense.

"I don't think we changed anything," he said. "We were running the same scheme with a different guy back there. It might have taken one practice. P.J.'s taken a lot of snaps [before], and we trust him. He's as much of a leader on this team as any of the seniors."

While Fulmore has enjoyed running the team's offense, he's glad that both he and Sharlow will be returning for another season.

"I'm happy that [Sharlow] is going to be back," Fulmore said. "And he's definitely going to be the quarterback next season."

Two starting linemen -- juniors Nick Nyman and Joe Sadler -- are expected to be the only starting offensive linemen returning next season, but plenty of skill players are expected to be back. That includes Sharlow, Fulmore, running back Jerome Turner, who scored three touchdowns last week against Tussey Mountain, and freshman Mario Latronica, who rushed for 197 yards last Friday night while scoring a touchdown.

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