YOU COULD SAY Bruce Mapp's days as West Catholic High's go-to guy are only beginning.

True, the 6-1, 170-pound senior will no longer catch passes as the football program's primary receiver, but that doesn't mean he'll fade into classroom/hallway oblivion.

Mapp is also the student council president and there's one question he'll be asked again and again - and a thousand more agains, minimum - until early January:

"Yo, Bruce. You hearin' anything?"

Or, to be more precise . . . "What's the deal? Are we going to stay open?"

As pretty much everyone knows by now, West is rumored to be high on the Archdiocese's gotta-slice-it list. The announcement about West and others is expected Jan. 6, and while Mapp can't help but be nervous, he's also maintaining a positive outlook.

"Since I came here in ninth grade, West has been a part of me," he said. "I'd be really upset to see it close. I don't think it's going to happen."

Hmm. Maybe he has inside info? Maybe he sits at the right hands of the president, Brother Tim Ahern, and principal, Sister Mary Bur?

"Nah, I don't have that much power," he quipped.

When Mapp was reached by cellphone Saturday night, it wasn't easy for him to sound upbeat.

Reason: Roughly 4 hours earlier at Coatesville High, the Burrs, the defending state champ, had fallen to Lancaster Catholic, in devastating fashion, in a PIAA Class AA semifinal. The final was 23-20, and the decisive touchdown came with 53 seconds remaining after a fourth-down play went horribly wrong.

With maybe 6 inches to go from West's 29, coach Brian Fluck at first decided to chance it. But there was hesitation as the Burrs lined up and a timeout was called. Fluck sought input from his assistants and, eventually, yelled down the sideline to his brother, Dennis, the defensive coordinator, "Should we go for it?" Dennis responded, "Punt it."

The snap was high. Punter Tristin Freeman jumped, but could get only part of one hand on the ball. LC recovered on the 16 and scored on second down. West did respond with a respectable drive, advancing to LC's 26, but all hope vanished at 0:09 as Jaleel Reed, terrific all game with 291 yards of passing/rushing, tossed an interception.

There was no consoling some Burrs and almost all showed emotion.

Everyone knew the deal. Not only had the season ended, but perhaps West, a charter Catholic League member (first season: 1920), had played football for the final time.

"It hit us pretty hard," Mapp said. "We were a couple inches away from getting that first down, then we let the game slip away . . . In time, I should recover, though.'

Mapp finished with four catches for 142 yards and one touchdown, a 57-yarder. His season totals show 32 catches (26 more than any other Burr) for 639 yards and nine TDs and he boasts an offer from Stony Brook, along with nibbles from Rhode Island, Wagner and Monmouth.

"There wasn't really a plan to go with too much passing today," he said. "We thought we could target their front seven with rushing, but they were pretty tough. So, when my number was called, I just made plays.

"The touchdown pass was only about 12 yards. No defender was really near me, so I opened up my stride and took it the rest of the way."

Mapp's score drew the Burrs within 16-12 and they seized the lead, at 20-16, on a 3-yard run by David Williams with 9:53 remaining. That drive covered 84 yards in 11 plays and was fueled mostly by Reed (7-for-15, 204; 15-87 rushing) and Williams (19-59).

All game, West's best defenders were linebackers Freeman and Marquise Gordon and backs Blaise Schieler and Shaquille James. Every guy had seven tackles.

Mapp, who lives on 67th near Callowhill, pictures himself majoring in anything from communications to sports medicine. So far in his president's role, he has organized blood drives and dances and even assisted alumni officers with a recent fund-raising appearance at West by the Midtown Men, a group including four original cast members of Jersey Boys.

Mapp sat right in the audience, enjoying the show.

"The whole night was great," he said. "You kind of think of your school as just the kids who are here now. But it's not. There's a real big West Catholic family out there, including a whole lot of alumni, and nobody wants to see this place close."

Online high school coverage at philly.com/rally.