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‘Praying to God that Something Would Happen’: Central Catholic Gets Miracle Win with Heads-Up Play



PENN HILLS, Pa. — The golden rule in football is to always play until the whistle is blown. It’s one of the first things that youth football coaches hammer down. That principle literally won the game for Pittsburgh Central Catholic over Penn Hills on Friday night at Yuhas-McGinley Stadium.

After giving up a touchdown and two-point conversion, Central was down 28-27 with just 18 seconds remaining. Central got the ball down to Penn Hills 32-yard line and called timeout to attempt a long game-winning field goal. The field goal got blocked, but the ball never went past the line of scrimmage. Central offensive lineman Anthony Shovlin picked up the loose ball and ran for a touchdown to win the game.

“I was laying on the ground praying to God that something (would happen), and it happened,” Central linebacker Anthony Speca said about the game-winning blocked field goal return. “The whole message this week was that we don’t quit, we work hard. And I think that’s what happened, to the end we didn’t quit. I think that was the biggest message, and that got across. I think this was a statement win for Central Catholic.”

Penn Hills players and even some coaches stormed the field following the block, it appeared that the game was over. Shovlin made a heads-up play, however. It also looked like Central coaches were yelling for a player to scoop up the ball. So, that’s good coaching, as well.

“You can see when we tackle people, everybody is hopping on the pile until they tell us to get off,” Speca said. “Anthony (Shovlin) is a hard-working kid. He’s a smart kid. He just knows football. He just made that play.”

There was about a five-minute delay following Shovlin’s touchdown, as it really wasn’t clear if it was a legal play. If the ball went past the line of scrimmage, it would have been a dead ball. It was deemed by the officials that the ball never went past the 32-yard line and the touchdown stood.

Understandably, Penn Hills players, coaches and fans were not happy with the call. Of course, there’s no replay in high school football, so it’s completely on the officials to get it right in real time. It appeared that Shovlin picked the ball up at the 32-yard line, but I wouldn’t say it was definitive. It will be interesting to see if Penn Hills sends footage of the play to the PIAA and WPIAL, not that it would change the outcome. What is done is done. But it was definitely a bizarre way to lose a game.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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