WEXFORD, Pa. — It was a Black Out night at Newman Stadium but Central Catholic High School wasn’t afraid of the dark.
Central Catholic capitalized on a fast start and didn’t allow North Allegheny Senior High School to climb back into the contest in a 24-7 win Friday night. It was the first time the Tigers and Vikings faced off since Central edged NA last year in the WPIAL Class 6-A title game.
Coming off major wins last week (a 61-14 throttle for NA over Baldwin and a 50-0 shutout for CC over Norwin), the two 6-A powerhouses clashed in a contest that featured far less scoring and far more defense than their previous opponents.
A steady dose of senior running back Gannon Carothers for CC was the difference against NA, with Carothers rushing early and often to carry the Vikings past the Tigers with two rushing touchdowns.
After an initial three and out for the CC offense to open the game, sophomore quarterback Payton Wehner and Carothers started to take over.
It was Carothers who struck first on the Vikings’ second drive, barreling into the end zone from three yards out to open the scoring. The short touchdown wouldn’t have been possible without Wehner hooking up with senior wide receiver Brandon Jackson Jr. for a 39-yard strike to set up inside the five-yard line.
The following CC drive was sustained by conversion on third and short-yardage situations that left the NA defense on the field for a long chunk of the quarter and the beginning of the second. The Vikings faced a 4th-and-1 to open the second quarter deep inside NA territory, converted it and Wehner rolled out a few plays to walk into the end zone untouched from two yards out.
The game was beginning to look bleak for NA, facing a 3rd-and-very long from deep within the Tigers’ territory, but a sack by Vikings senior defensive lineman Donovan Hinish was turned into a personal foul face mask call that gave NA life.
On the ensuing 3rd-and-10 replay, senior wide receiver Cole Dorn found some space in the CC secondary and picked up the crucial first down for the Tigers. It was the chance NA needed, with senior running back Kolin Dinkins showing off the burners on a 62-yard touchdown as he raced past the Vikings’ defense on the next play.
The action settled down as the half wore on, but of course, the festivities picked up in the final two minutes. A muffed punt by NA set the Vikings up inside the Tigers’ 10-yard line, but a CC fumble out of the end zone for a touchback basically set up NA where the original punt would’ve been. And NA kneeled to end the half.
NA received the second half kickoff, but a fumbled first down conversion bounced to the turf and was recovered by CC. The turnover led to three points for the Vikings, senior kicker Matt Shearer converting a 43 yarder with just enough leg to push the lead to 10 points.
The second half settled into more a defensive slugfest with both offenses struggling to gain much headway against strong defensive lines. A fake punt from NA gave the Tigers a bit of life, but a fourth down pass fell incomplete inside the red zone.
Another NA drive midway through the fourth quarter stalled out near midfield with a pass falling incomplete on fourth down to give the ball back to CC. A steady dose of Carothers, as was called all night, iced the game for CC with another touchdown from him.
With the win, Central improves to 4-1 while North Allegheny falls to 3-2 on the year.
Both schools will face important WPIAL Class 6-A tests next week. Central will face off against a 3-1 Seneca Valley squad with two weeks of rest while NA will clash with an unbeaten Mt. Lebanon team.