After coming up short in its previous four games against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Avonworth finally broke through Friday night.
A 93-yard, 16-play drive by the Antelopes ate up nearly eight minutes of the fourth quarter and culminated with a 3-yard run by fullback Brandon Wasko to give Avonworth a 28-21 victory.
One key play of the drive was a fullback option by Wasko, who passed to quarterback Josh Drwal, giving the Antelopes a first down at the Trojans 24-yard line.
Wasko then intercepted a pass with 49 seconds left to the seal the victory at Mars Athletic Complex.
Avonworth (11-1) will play Clairton at 11 a.m. on Friday at Heinz Field for the WPIAL Class A title. It’s the first trip to the WPIAL title game for the school since 1959, when the Antelopes played Union Area to a 13-13 stalemate.
North Catholic finished the season at 11-1. The defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Trojans had a 27-game winning streak halted with the loss.
The fullback option was the first time Avonworth tried that play all season.
“We originally had run it with Jamal Hughley, but he was all banged up,” Wasko said. “I was always hounding coach to give me a chance to throw the ball once. I love pressure.”
The winning score came with 2:59 to go in the game. The Antelopes snared two interceptions in the final three minutes.
The first one was by Drwal with 1:59 left. After North Catholic took over at its 22 on downs, Wasko made his big pickoff six plays later.
“I caught the ball, and all I was thinking was Heinz Field,” Wasko said.
“All I told them to do was play hard, play fast and play physical,” Avonworth coach Duke Johncour said. “We did the job tonight.”
For North Catholic’s P.J. Fulmore, the senior standout finished his career with 140 yards rushing Friday for a total of 4,590 yards on his career.
That’s good enough for 24th on the all-time WPIAL career rushing list.
“Very disappointing,” Trojans coach Bob Ravensthal said. “No excuses, they were the better team tonight. The scoreboard indicated that.”
Avonworth got the first break, when Paul Heflin recovered a botched North Catholic handoff on the game’s second play.
Three plays later, junior Hughley took a sweep right 26 yards for the score.
North Catholic answered with a 1-yard run by Fulmore to tie it
Fulmore’s 20-yard run gave North Catholic its first lead of the game with 8:56 left in the half.
Hughley’s 51-yard run less than a minute into the third quarter tied it. But two plays later, Trojans quarterback Adam Sharlow found Darian Mercurio alone at midfield on a 79-yard pass play.
Avonworth tied it with a 69-yard Drwal’s 31-yard keeper and a 2-yard pass from Frwal to John Gould.
Hughley finished with 126 yards rushing for the Antelopes.
George Guido is a freelance writer.