John Knebels
Sports Columnist

As North Catholic’s bowling team prepared for the season, some of the players were sitting around acknowledging its particular importance.

If time was ever of the essence, this was it. In June, North Catholic will be closing its doors for good.

“It was special for the seniors in one way, and for the underclassmen in another way,” said junior John Rooney. “The truth is that anything less than a championship would have been very disappointing.”

On Feb. 20 at Northeast Philadelphia’s Boulevard Lanes, the Catholic League bowling championship took place. The Falcons won the first of three games by 201 pins en route to a decisive victory over Kennedy-Kenrick. In an ironic twist, Kennedy-Kenrick is also closing in June.

Rooney rolled a sensational 674 series with games of 203, 236 and 235. His brother, Steve, a senior who averaged 207 this year, joined senior Tyler Rutledge, junior Jerry Bartholomew, senior Cameron Carlucci and sophomore Jim Mormando in the Falcons’ 205-pin triumph.

Kennedy-Kenrick’s Greg Frick kept the Wolverines close by throwing a blistering 689 series with games of 226, 227 and 236.

“We are a very enthusiastic group and we have to be the loudest team in the league,” said John Rooney. “More than anything else, we have a lot of fun. We take everything seriously, but I don’t feel like we usually put any pressure on ourselves. But being our last match ever … that definitely changed some things.”

While John Rooney tries to figure out whether to attend Father Judge or Archbishop Ryan next year, his brother Steve is debating whether to start college at Albright or Delaware Valley. An All-Catholic defensive tackle for the Falcons’ football team that lost to Archbishop Wood in the Catholic League AAA spanision championship, Steve was emotionally torn as the team celebrated its championship at a nearby restaurant.

“I had sort of a happy feeling and sort of a sad feeling,” he said. “Winning it with my brother was special because the two of us are really close. I wish those guys had another chance to win another one next year, so in a way, it still hurts even though we won.”

Teammate Bartholomew, who led off the championship with a 256 after having led the 60-pin semifinal victory over Cardinal O’Hara with a career-high 278, agrees. This is the second time he will endure his school closing one year before he graduates; the same thing occurred when he was in seventh grade at St. John the Baptist School in Manayunk, leading him to graduate from St. Bridget’s in East Falls.

Almost definitely heading for Roman Catholic for his senior year, Bartholomew said he “still feels angry” about North Catholic closing, but sandwiching his high school career around Catholic League titles (North also won in 2007 and has taken four of the past six crowns, 17 altogether) has softened the blow. “We definitely picked a good time to win a championship,” he said. “It’s something we will remember for years to come, not only for us, but for everyone who has bowled at North. At the championship there were a lot of guys there from years past rooting for us.”

Whatever school John Rooney eventually attends, he knows what colors he’ll be wearing underneath his gown.

“North’s colors,” he said. “I think all of the juniors will be wearing red and white.”

Read next week’s issue to learn how Little Flower High School edged Cardinal O’Hara to win its third consecutive Catholic League bowling championship.

John Knebels can be reached at