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Central Catholic’s Balanced Attack Sends Them To PIAA 6A Semifinal

Central Catholic’s Balanced Attack Sends Them To PIAA 6A Semifinal

Thank you to Dunkin’ Pittsburgh, the official sponsor of WPIAL high school football coverage on Pittsburgh Sports Now.

WEXFORD, Pa. — Pittsburgh Central Catholic fell behind 14-0 just four minutes into their Class 6A PIAA quarterfinal matchup against State College on Friday – which tied the most points that the Vikings have let up all season.

But they only allowed the Little Lions to score once the rest of the game, and it didn’t come until there were just ten minutes left in the game.

“We weren’t at our best early,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. “(We had) maybe a little bit of a hangover from the WPIAL (championship), but we fought back out of it. … Credit our guys.”

The 2019 Vikings have been notorious for their running game and dominant defensive unit all season. But in their most important game to date, they got significant help from other areas of their attack.

Central Catholic quarterback Dom Pieto threw two touchdowns to Gannon Carothers (74 and 26-yards respectively) following the two-score deficit.

“Carothers had a great game, and Dom (Pieto) put the ball where he needed to put it a lot of the time,” Totten said about the production from his team’s passing game.

Carothers had only six catches all season before the state quarterfinal on Friday.

The Vikings third touchdown was on a 44-yard fake punt that JD Younger took down the right sideline into the end zone.

“Oh, that fake punt was nice,” Running back Eddie Tillman said. “That just came out of nowhere. We practiced it, but I didn’t know that it would happen right there.”

But State College didn’t go away after Central took their first lead of the game. The Little Lions quarterback Brady Dorner hit Lokey Howell over the middle for a 21-yard score to tie it up in the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Central’s defense got back to performing like they had all season long and held the Little Lions when it mattered most. The Vikings defensive line amped up their pressure and caused State College to find themselves in long down situations for the remainder of the fourth quarter.

Pieto found Carothers once more (for 37-yards) with 2:00 left in the game that put the Vikings on the State College 11-yard line.

The scene was set for Central Catholic’s kicker John Opalko to send the Vikings’ opponent packing for the second consecutive week.

After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Central, it set up a 37-yard attempt for Opalko with just over a minute remaining. That didn’t bother Opalko at all.

He nailed it.

“I hit the same ball, whether it’s a PAT or a 55-yarder,” Opalko said. “I always want the ball at my foot (even when I’m playing soccer). If it comes down to me, I know what I can do.”

Central Catholic’s Tillman (who ran for 168 rushing yards) had some praise for Opalko.

“Best kicker in the nation,” Tillman said. “He always makes when it counts.”

It counted, and Central Catholic advances to the PIAA semifinal against St. Joesph’s Prep (nationally ranked in the top-25).

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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