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PITTSBURGH — Central Catholic won their first WPIAL football championship since 2016 on Friday night, 10-7, knocking off back-to-back champs Pine-Richland.
A 40-yard field goal was struck perfectly by Central Catholic’s John Opalko with 3:58 left in the fourth quarter to break the tie game. The foot of Opalko ended up being the deciding the factor in a defensive battle.
To set up the field goal, Central Catholic’s Chase Horne intercepted Rams quarterback Cole Spencer with just under five minutes remaining, one of five turnovers as the Vikings defense dominated the matchup.
Pine-Richland didn’t crack the scoreboard until there was 8:36 left in the third quarter. Spencer, the Rams’ star quarterback, hit Eli Jochem on a check down and Jochem fought into the end zone.
The Vikings answered just two possessions later when quarterback Dom Pieto completed his first pass of the game on a 29-yard strike to wide receiver Eric Benson.
The first half was a defensive slugfest for the whole 24 minutes.
On a Central Catholic fourth-and-goal on Rams one-yard line near the end of the first quarter, Pine-Richland came up with a defensive stop. That play turned out to be the only real scoring possibility for either team until the start of the second half.
There were four total turnovers between the two teams in the first half (3 fumbles by Pine-Richland, a fumble by Central Catholic).
Pine-Richland’s Spencer made timely plays throughout the game, but credit the Vikings’ defense for the Rams offense not being able to move the ball downfield with any consistency.
Central Catholic didn’t have a single passing yard in the first half. It was a battle of both teams linemen and punters (both teams had five at the half). Pine Richland’s Spencer was 12-of-18 passing for 61 yards in the first half. The Rams held Central Catholic’s offense to just 45 total yards at the break.
But it wasn’t good enough.
Central Catholic’s running back Eddie Tillman was the main workhorse for the Vikings offense in the game, even though the stats weren’t too appealing.
The Vikings also won the Week 5 matchup in the regular season 29-7. Holding an offense like Pine-Richland to just 14 points in two games is an impressive feat by itself.