Trojans plan to stay the course
CRANBERRY TWP — North Catholic’s memorable season ran into Central Valley in the WPIAL Class 3A championship game at Heinz Field last November.
The result was a lopsided defeat, the only loss in a 12-1 season.
The Trojans aim to get another shot at district supremacy, but more importantly, are willing to put in the work it takes to get there.
“We want to get back and that’s understood with the whole team, but we know we have to focus every week,” said senior Shamus Straub, a returning starter at offensive tackle and middle linebacker. “We can’t get to the end goal if we don’t win those games week to week.”
The Trojans have once again been bumped up in classification. They were a Class 1A team as late as 2015, played at 2A the next two seasons and resided in Class 3A for the last four campaigns. Their new home is the WPIAL’s Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference and their foes include Highlands, Kiski Area, Armstrong, Hampton, Indiana and Mars.
“Hopefully, we’ve found a home,” said North coach Patrick O’Shea. “It would be nice if our (enrollment) numbers were high enough for us to remain at 4A.”
The Trojans will be sporting a new look this season. Former Quaker Valley head coach Ron Balog was brought in to run the offense and has installed a wide-zone scheme to replace the read option.
“The passing game will look different, more spread out,” O’Shea said. “We had a great day in a 7-on-7 tournament over the summer and took a lot of positive energy from that.”
With Joey Prentice graduated, the reins of the offense will fall into the hands of one of two juniors — Jason Siket or Kaden Sarver, a transfer from Hopewell.
Siket was very impressive in a start against Valley last year. Stepping in for the injured Prentice, he passed for 234 yards and five touchdowns.
“Both (Siket and Sarver) looked really good over the summer,” O’Shea said. “They have similar arm strength, though Jason is a little more agile.”
Whoever is calling the signals, he will be surrounded by much talent at the skill positions.
Jack Fennell and Chase Arrington will share the majority of rushing attempts, but will also factor into the air attack.
North’s receiving corps was depleted by graduations, but senior Mitch Lanthaler and junior Gavin Kamody, both wideouts, and sophomore tight end Brady O’Hara will each have opportunities to make plays downfield.
The Trojans have a solid tradition of stout offensive line play. JJ Iaquinta, Justin Smith, Julian King and Straub will be counted on to lead the front this season.
Straub will join Lanthaler and Danny Franco at linebacker. Arrington and Fennell will be at the corner positions and Kamody and Siket at safety.
“We lost a lot of guys from last year’s defense, but we have seniors and juniors ready to step up,” Straub said. “I believe we can stand up and meet that (defensive) standard. I’m excited to see what this group can do.”
Straub is set to handle punting duties while O’Shea has not yet settled on a kicker. He knows a successful offseason is key to the amount of success a team meets with in the fall.
“The kids know the work ethic it takes to get there (WPIAL title game),” he said. “From the time we started lifting weights in February, they’ve gained strength and confidence and that’s a positive thing.”