SHALER, PA — In a game where both teams combined for 17 punts, it was only fitting that it came down to the wire as North Allegheny took their first lead on a punt return touchdown by Percise Colon with under three minutes to go in the game to defeat Central Catholic 11-10.
In a match-up of two of the most consistent teams in the WPIAL, Central Catholic and North Allegheny’s defenses forced three and outs on each respective first drive of the game.
Central Catholic’s offense looked disjointed at the start of their second drive of the game, but after they converted a fourth and short for the first, first down of the game, they called a delayed counter play and Edward Tillman rounded the corner and used his speed and ran it 56 yards for the opening touchdown of the game to give the Vikings the early 7-0 lead.
North Allegheny would go three and out on their next drive, but their defense would get them the ball right back with a three and out of their own and the Tigers offense went to work.
Ben Petschke found Khalil Dinkins for two big passing plays that jump started the Tiger offense, but Central Catholic tightened up the defense inside of the redzone and held North Allgheny to a Brandon Persad 28-yard field goal and the Vikings held a 7-3 lead early in the 2nd Quarter.
The Tigers won the field position battle in the 2nd Quarter as Petschke had two punts downed inside of the Central Catholic five yard line.
After the Tigers downed the first of those punts inside of the five, the defense quickly forced a three and out and Opalko had to punt the ball out of Central Catholic’s endzone. He had to rush the punt and it came off the side of his foot and that would allow North Allegheny to begin their next drive from the Vikings thirteen yard line.
Central Catholic’s defense rose to the occasion, however, and forced an incomplete pass on fourth down as they escaped danger and would take their 7-3 lead into the halftime locker rooms.
Two of the biggest takeaways from that first half were the nine combined punts between the teams and Central Catholic committed four penalties to none by North Allegheny.
North Allegheny’s offense seemed to start to find a rhythm as the 1st half wore on behind Petschke, Percise Colon and Khalil Dinkins, but the Vikings defense was able to hold them to one field goal on their subsequent two trips into the redzone.
Other than Tillman’s 56 yard touchdown run to open up the scoring in the game, the Tigers defense was able to control the line of scrimmage and keep Pieto uncomfortable in the first half as Dinkins recorded 4 tackles and Amosis Porter Jr. recorded 2.5 tackles and 0.5 a sack.
Both defenses continued to control the line of scrimmage in the 3rd Quarter as we had six combined punts and the North Allegheny defense was able to force and recover a fumble.
The Vikings got the ball back near the end of the 3rd Quarter and started a long drive down the field that ate up a lot of clock, however, North Allegheny’s defense stiffened up when it had to and held Central Catholic to a 29-yard field goal by Opalko and the Vikings led 10-3 with 6:04 remaining in the game.
On the next drive for the Tigers, Colon returned the kickoff out to the North Allegheny 45 yard line, but after a dropped pass and an under thrown pass led to a three and out and another punt.
Once again, however, the Tigers defense stepped up in a big way to force a three and out of their own and then the heroics of the last few minutes ensued.
Colon caught the punt at his own 40 yard line and ran toward his own sideline, cut it back and after he broke one Central Catholic tackle he reached the endzone 60 yards later for the North Allegheny Touchdown.
After the Vikings jumped offsides on the PAT attempt, the Tigers went for two and Peter Verdzel took the direct snap and ran it in to give the Tigers their first lead of the game 11-10 with 2:55 to go in the 4th.
On the next drive, Central Catholic had a 3rd down and North Allegheny was able to get to Dom Pieto for the sack and forced a fumble that the Tigers recovered on the 13 yard line and they were able to run out the clock to finish off the win and remain undefeated on the season (3-0).