Tussey drops PIAA opener
ALLISON PARK – Tussey Mountain lost its focus in the second quarter Friday night.
As a result, the Titans lost in their PIAA tournament debut.
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic racked up 48 unanswered points to post a 48-7 win over the Titans in a PIAA Class A quarterfinal at Hampton High School’s Fridley Field.
North Catholic (14-0), making its PIAA debut as well, moves on to meet the winner of Saturday’s Lakeview vs. Clarion battle in next week’s PIAA semifinal.
“It’s nice to move on,” North Catholic coach Bob Ravenstahl said.
Tussey (11-3) struck first with 4:55 left in the first quarter. Daniel Taylor broke loose for a 66-yard touchdown run. He exploded through the middle and ran down the far sideline for the quick strike and 7-0 lead.
However, the Trojans responded in 2:14 on their next possession. A pair of long runs set up the first of Jerome Turner’s three TD jaunts on the night to knot the score at 7-all with 2:41 to play in the first quarter.
“I don’t know if we came out flat or whatever, but they scored first and that woke us up a little bit. We started to play football,” Ravenstahl said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who have been playing for two and three years and they responded to the challenge.”
An interception helped set up the Trojans’ second TD. P.J. Fulmore’s fourth-down completion to Ronnie Meder kept the drive alive. Turner sprinted into the end zone from the 16 to make it a 14-7 game early in the second quarter.
That’s when disaster struck for the Titans. Offensive and defensive tackle Brock Rhoat and halfback and safety Darren Sipes both went down with injuries in the frame. In addition, hobbled fullback Kyle Kline joined them on the bench. The three watched helplessly as North Catholic pulled away.
“It hurt that we had several key injuries right away. We had a couple guys go down and that just kind of took the wind out of our sails. After our touchdown, we were in it and ready to go,” Tussey coach Josh Smith said. “I think we lost our composure. With a couple key injuries, it took two of our captains right off the field. That’s tough. We were searching for a couple guys to step up and show some leadership. We did get that later, but against a good team, you have to keep your focus the entire game and we didn’t quite do that in the second quarter.
“We have to give [North Catholic] credit. They have a good offensive line and they were able to steamroll us at times. They have a good team and a solid team.”
After Tussey failed to convert on a fourth down deep in North Catholic territory, running back Mario Latronica made an impact to set up the Trojans’ third TD. He scampered in from the 7 for a 21-7 lead with 7:48 left in the half.
Following a Titans punt, North Catholic marched back down the field, keyed by Latronica’s 50-yard burst, to post a 28-7 advantage on Turner’s 7-yard run with 3:26 remaining. Latronica, a freshman, led all rushers with 189 yards on 18 carries.
“Mario is a freshman. That’s the most he’s carried the ball and he did a heck of a job tonight,” Ravenstahl said. “Jerome and P.J. did well. We’re just trying to stay healthy and go one game at a time.”
The Trojans surprised Tussey with an onside kick and they recovered the ball at the Titans’ 49. Three plays later, Fulmore hit Meder for a 50-yard scoring strike to push the lead to 35-7 with 1:49 left in the half.
North Catholic put the exclamation point on the win on Tussey’s first possession of the second half. Quarterback Quinn Barnett was hit and lost the ball. Jarred Fragapane scooped it up and returned it 43 yards for a TD to make it a 42-7 game. It trigged the 35-point mercy rule as well.
The Trojans’ Rashad Bolden capped the scoring with a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Overall, it was a tough loss in an historic season for the Titans, who turned the ball over five times (three interceptions, two fumbles).
“It’s frustrating. There were little things we didn’t do quite right to make plays defensively. We had several turnovers and that was our undoing in our other losses this year. We have to hold onto the ball a little better,” Smith said. “I told the guys that, at the end, someone is going to lose. You don’t want it to happen, but it’s going to happen. We’ve made a lot of history for Tussey Mountain. We’ve started more of a tradition, more of a program that someone can look at and have some pride in. They’ve done some things that nobody has ever done at Tussey. It’s great for our program and great for our community. It’s a heck of a team and we had a bunch of guys step up and play really well this year for us.
“We’ve never played out of the district before. So, it’s a big steppingstone for our program. We can play with any team; we just have to continue to bring it the entire game. We can’t let up and we can’t have mistakes because good teams take advantage of those.”
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Tussey Mountain 7 0 0 0 – 7
North Catholic 7 28 7 6 48
T-Taylor 66 run (Wentz kick), 4:55
N-Turner 14 run (Tarasovich kick), 2:41
N-Turner 16 run (Tarasovich kick), 11:25
N-Latronica 7 run (Tarasovich kick), 7:48
N-Turner 7 run (Tarasovich kick), 3:26
N-Meder 50 pass from Fulmore (Tarasovich kick), 1:49
N-J Fragapane 43 fumble return (Tarasovich kick), 10:11
N-Bolden 1 run (run failed)
RUSHING: Tussey Mountain-Taylor 12-99, Sipes 3-(-6), K. Kline 1-1, Sitch 7-24, Wentz 8-33, Barnett 1-(-13), Black 2-23. North Catholic-Fulmore 5-46, Turner 10-64, Latronica 18-189, Bolden 5-3.
PASSING: Tussey Mountain-Barnett 4-13-2-53, Taylor 0-1-1-0. North Catholic-Fulmore 4-8-0-126.
RECEIVING: Tussey Mountain-Runk 1-22, K. Kline 1-7, Brumbaugh 2-24. North Catholic-Mercurio 2-62, Meder 2-64.
INTERCEPTIONS: Tussey Mountain-none. North CatholicTurner, Sefick, M Fragapane
TEAM STATISTICS T N
First downs 10 16
Rushes-yards 34-166 38-312
Passing (comp.-att.-int.)4-14-3 4-8-0
Yards passing 53 126
Total yards 219 438
Fumbles-lost 3-2 4-0
Penalties-yards 3-38 5-50
Punts-avg. 2-33 5-34