Bishop McCort coach Kevin Sheridan considered Luke DiFrancesco a potential game-changer long before the junior two-way standout’s three-touchdown, two-interception performance in Saturday’s 45-6 victory over Northern Cambria.
Sheridan just needed to convince DiFrancesco.
The junior wide receiver-defensive back provided all the necessary evidence during a one-sided District 6 Class A semifinal at Point Stadium. DiFrancesco had a 55-yard TD reception, a 56-yard punt return for a score, and a 29-yard pick-six interception.
“We’ve been telling Luke he’s capable of big things,” Sheridan said after 9-3 McCort earned a championship date against top-seeded Bellwood-Antis on Saturday at Mansion Park. “He’s a big play kind of guy. He had his opportunities and he certainly capitalized on them.”
Northern Cambria closed an 8-4 season as McCort’s offensive and defensive lines turned in a dominating performance.
The Crushers defense limited a potent Colts offense to a net 93 rushing yards, 31 passing yards and eight first downs.
“It was just up front,” Northern Cambria coach Paul Taranto said. “Both sides of the football.”
The Crushers forced five turnovers, including four interceptions.
“We ran our basic stuff. It
didn’t work. We went to some fancy stuff and it didn’t work,” Taranto said. “You’re caught looking for things.”
The Colts had an early opportunity. McCort’s Dustin Belskey fumbled the first play from scrimmage. Northern Cambria’s Alex Atkins recovered at the Crushers 32-yard line.
A pass interference call gave Northern Cambria a first down at the 17. But DiFrancesco intercepted a Jeff Hogan pass near the goal line and returned it to the 5.
“We had the emotions. We got the big break. You think you can go down and stuff it in and get the job done,” Taranto said. “When you don’t do that I’m pretty sure that’s a little shot. That fumble should have took the nerves out of it. We could have realized we could play with this team. They’re human like we are. It just didn’t work out for us.”
Northern Cambria got the ball back at the McCort 34 after a short punt but Jordan Spangler halted the drive with an interception.
“That was the tale of the early part of the game,” Sheridan said. “We were able to stop that momentum swing because our defensive line was so strong and our linebackers were flying to the ball.”
McCort quarterback Zaine Tomkowski then hit a running DiFrancesco in stride downfield and he made an over the shoulder catch before running to the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown.
Belskey scored on a 4-yard run, and Spangler booted a
22-yard field goal to set a 17-0 halftime score.
The Crushers broke open the game with 28 third-quarter points.
“Once it snowballed, it got out of hand,” Taranto said. “Interceptions. Punt returns. Fumbles.”
DiFrancesco returned a punt 56 yards to make it 24-0.
“I just caught it on the bounce. I saw a lane to the left,” DiFrancesco said. “I’ve got to give it all to my blockers. They just set it up and I ran for a touchdown.”
McCort’s Ryan Siwy pounced on a fumbled snap on a punt attempt from the end zone for another special teams touchdown.
“Special teams is another phase of the game that we’ve done well with,” Sheridan said.
Northern Cambria’s Derek Baker broke a 60-yard touchdown run to set a 31-6 score. But Crushers back Wyatt Jackson gained 61 of his game-high 145 rushing yards on a drive capped by Tomkowski’s 1-yard keeper.
DiFrancesco put an exclamation point on the night with a 29-yard interception return.
“I got in position. He threw it up a little bit for grabs,” DiFrancesco said. “I took my chances. They led me in once again.”
Tomkowski completed 7 of 11 passes for 121 yards. McCort rushed for 235 yards. Northern Cambria’s Hogan was 4 of 15 for 23 yards and four interceptions. Baker led the Colts with 64 rushing yards.
“The tale of the night is that our guys up front played so well and put us in position to win,” Sheridan said.