Catty Pulls Away from Palisades
To beat the #6 team in the state, you have to play near perfect football.
Palisades (2-1) did not play a perfect first half when they hosted Catasauqua (3-0) on Friday.
But the Pirates played a very, very good one- committing no penalties, keeping the Rough Riders’ potent offense off the field and averaging almost 4 yards per carry when they had the ball. Palisades found themselves down just 12-7 at halftime to one of the best teams in the state.
Yet the Rough Riders, PA Football News’ #6-ranked team in the state, were as dominant in the second half as they were evenly matched in the first. A 38-yard bomb from senior quarterback Zach Bradley to classmate and all-state wide receiver Paryss Marshall highlighted a 5-play, 57-yard drive to open the second half.
Marshall returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown one series leader.
“I caught the ball and got good blocks,” said Marshall, who pointed out that an illegal procedure call against Palisades forced the re-kick which led to the touchdown. “Tyler Trobetsky blocked his man all the way out of bounds. I was able to cut it in, and then bust it out. Then I was gone.”
A muffed punt, recovered by Catty after their D forced a second straight three-and-out, led to senior running back Ra’Von Burton’s 11 yard touchdown run. Just like that, the score was blown open to 32-7 halfway through the third.
The Rough Riders weren’t finished either. Marshall snagged a 17-yard touchdown pass on a post route to open the fourth quarter and junior running back Michael Shutta added a nine-yard touchdown scamper to make the game 45-7- the final score-with 7:00 left in the fourth.
What started out as a stalemate first half ended with a running clock. Burton finished the game with 130 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries.
And Gershwin might love Paris in the spring time, but Colonial League defensive coordinators fear Paryss in the Fall. The likely 1-AA bound wide out snagged 10 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
“When we were younger, neither of us played our current positions,” said Marshall on his chemistry with Bradley. “But during JV our sophomore year, we showed that Catty had something coming up. We knew, during the summer, that if we just keep working, that chemistry would get even better.”
Catasauqua has outscored their opponents 581 to 118 in their last 13 regular season games, all blow out wins. It made Palisades’ first half all the more impressive.
“I don’t think you can prepare any differently. You have to go with what you have, and it’s too short of a week to prepare anything special defensively,” responded Palisades coach Kevin Ronalds when asked how to prep for team with Catty’s elite passing attack. “We have a good secondary and in the first half, we got fortunate because they dropped some balls.
“But we did some good things too,” Ronalds added. “We disrupted them a little bit and we were able on offense to get a couple of first downs and keep the ball out of their hands. I think that frustrates them. In the second half, we did none of that. They got on a roll and it snow piled.”
Trailing 6-0 in the second, Pirate punter Sam O’Brien pinned the Rough Riders at their own 18. Sophomore cornerback Austin Krauss made a great tackle for a five yard loss on a swing pass, keying a three-and-out.
Palisades then marched 44 yards in seven plays. Senior running back JD Donnelly broke off a 24-yard gain, setting up fellow tailback Christian Gretzinger’s 1-yard touchdown plunge that gave the Pirates a 7-6 lead mid-way through the second quarter.
“That is our run game and we expect to be able to do that,” said Ronalds, on the ground attack that picked up over 500 combined yards in the Pirates’ two wins. “We’ll run off tackle and sneak one outside or we’ll run a couple of quick ones up the middle. We were efficient, and if we could have continued that- I don’t know if we would have won the game because they clearly are the class of our League, but it probably goes to the end.”
Donnelly and Gretzinger’s work this season can’t be overlooked. Running behind 305 pound left tackle Ben Henry, who is getting serious looks from the Ivy League, the two have keyed Palisades’ first five halves of very successful football.
Gretzinger has scored five touchdowns this year, one of them on a pick-six. Donnelly has rushed for over 320 yards on just 30 carries, and has reached paydirt four times.
“JD doesn’t have a whole lot of moves,” Ronalds chuckled. “He is hard, straight ahead and deceptively fast. Gretz has so much vision. He cuts back much more than JD will. He’ll bounce out and see things just before they happen. They’re definitely two different types of runners. I like being able to mix them up. They are two tough kids. Tough kids,” he repeated.
The road to the Colonial League clearly runs through Catasauqua. But Pen Argyl upset Catty in District playoffs last year…and Palisades is one week removed from a 46-21 thrashing of the Green Knights. For one half Ronalds’ charges showed that the road to Catty, perhaps, could be fraught with a Pirate ambush.
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