Game with Pen Argyl is for D-11 title
When Catasauqua football head coach Tom Falzone and his staff drove to Tamaqua last Saturday to scout their semifinal district playoff game against Pen Argyl, they expected to see what undefeated Tamaqua would try and execute against them the following week.
Instead, they saw a team that showed how they have been riding the crest of a tidal wave the past few weeks.
At first, it appeared Catty would have a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference semifinal against Tamaqua as the host team jumped out a rather -commanding 14-0 lead at halftime. However, the wave Pen Argyl has been riding was just beginning to crest.
Pen Argyl stormed back with 30 unanswered second-half points and earned an invitation to Alumni Field Saturday night to face the Roughies in the PIAA Class 2A District 11 final. The victory was the Green Knights fourth consecutive, a streak in which they have outscored their opponents 112-42 and marched them into the postseason.
Pen Argyl's last defeat was a 48-21 loss to the Roughies Oct. 13.
"We watched Tamaqua and saw how they went up early," recalled Falzone. "But things changed after halftime. They (Pen Argyl) came out and just steamrolled them (Tamaqua). They took over the game in every phase.
"When we played them, they had some players injured. But they are healthy now and will be a big challenge for us."
One of the key returnees for the Green Knights in recent weeks has been senior fullback Michael DePaolo, who rushed for a game-high 137 yards in their win over Tamaqua. He has teamed with tailback Mike Racciato (24 carries, 100 yards against Tamaqua) to form one of the more formidable tandems in the Lehigh Valley.
Quarterback Ryan Hunt has been an efficient passer throughout the season as he normally throws less than 15 passes a game, but he has shown the capacity in several games to be a major threat.
In their earlier meeting, DePaolo was injured and Racciato was held to just 28 yards. Overall, Pen Argyl mustered just 210 yards of total offense compared to Catty's total of 353.
Still, Falzone is adhering to the old adage. His team will be gunning for the school's first district crown since 1992, the last of three consecutive during the period. Pen Argyl will be seeking their third district title, winning championships in 1986 and 2002, according to District 11 records kept since 1986.
"It's tough to beat a team twice during the season," said Falzone, who did that feat against Northern Lehigh in the district semifinal. "We have a good feel for what each of us can and will do. With them having some injured people back, it will make a difference. We just have to come in with some different looks.
"They (Pen Argyl) only had one turnover against us, but we managed to shut down their running game. We'll have to do the same this time around."
Catty has also managed to stay injury free this season, a stumbling that has certainly provided a rough road the previous three seasons. They'll enter Saturday night's game also in search of an undefeated season, a remarkable trait in which the Roughies truly had an off night in 11 weeks.
"These kids are amazing," stated Falzone. "They are so resilient and just go out there and do what they need to do each week. We have had our share of moments when it looked like things could turn against us, but they pulled it out.
"They have been able to overcome everything in their way. They just go to work and clock in and clock out. They are extremely focused at this point of the season. We have stuck to the plan of taking one game at a time."
Saturday night, the focus will be likely on the biggest game in recent school history.