Central Catholic wildcat Petrishen wild card in game vs. Pine-Richland
Central Catholic coach Terry Totten saw last week’s WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal against Penn-Trafford slipping away.
After blowing an early 14-0 lead, Totten watched in amazement as Penn-Trafford scored three consecutive touchdowns to grab a 20-14 lead and seize momentum in the second quarter.
Totten knew his team needed a spark. Enter wide receiver John Petrishen to the wildcat position in the backfield.
After a 5-yard penalty, Petrishen took a snap and raced 43 yards to the Penn-Trafford 27. After he gained 3 yards on the next snap, he handed off to Damar Hamlin who swept around right end for a 24-yard touchdown and a 21-20 lead.
Petrishen wasn’t done. He lined up at wildcat again on the next possession. After two runs left Central Catholic with a third-and-4 from its own 44, he handed off to wide receiver Gunnar Frerotte. Petrishen then slipped out of the backfield and Frerotte hit him with a 56-yard score.
Central Catholic went on to earn a 52-34 victory and a berth in Friday’s WPIAL championship game for the second consecutive season. The defending champions will play Pine-Richland at 2 p.m. at Heinz Field.
“He’s something, a special player,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. “We’ve used this before. He’s a good guy to have the ball in his hands, and we needed every bit of it.”
Petrishen had only rushed the ball seven times for 59 yards prior to the Penn-Trafford game. He ended up carrying the ball 17 times for 211 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown run.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior had made opposing coaches prepare for him. He leads Central Catholic with 18 catches for 354 yards and eight touchdowns. He also has four punt returns for touchdowns.
Now coaches have to prepare for him running out of the wildcat.
Petrishen said he pestered Totten to give him more carries. After his first few carries against Penn-Trafford, Totten realized Petrishen had the hot hand and would be tough to stop.
“I’d like to say I was supposed to be a part of the offense,” Petrishen said. “I got a lot of carries. I don’t think the coaching staff planned on giving me the ball as much as they did. It just clicked, and we kept with it.”
Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said Central Catholic found something it liked and went with it.
Pine-Richland was able to corral Petrishen the first time the teams met Nov. 17. He was held to one catch for 10 yards.
But with an injury that could sideline running back Grant Foster, who rushed for 154 yards and three touchdowns in the first game, Petrishen might get the ball more. Foster was on crutches and seated in the press box last week.
“We are well aware of what John can do,” Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz said. “They used him a little against North Allegheny. They didn’t use it against us because we had the lead.
“I’m sure they’ll try to get him the ball some more. John will be one of the best athletes on the field. He’s a great player.”
Regardless of how many times he runs with the ball on Friday, Petrishen will try to carry Central Catholic to another WPIAL title.