CENTER TWP, Pa. — In what is becoming a yearly tradition, Central Valley is moving along in the WPIAL playoffs once again. The No. 2 seed Central Valley Warriors (10-1) took care of business at home in the WPIAL 4-A quarterfinals over No. 7 seed Laurel Highlands (8-3), 36-7.
In a game that was played mostly in a downpour, both teams ran the football, and field position dominated the game. Central Valley had two strong punt returns and recovered a fumble in the first quarter. They started their three drives in the first quarter with an average field position of the Laurel Highlands 22. However, LH held Central Valley on fourth down two times, and Central Valley needed to wait until their third possession of the game to get on the board.
A drive that started on the Laurel Highlands 29-yard line ended with Bret FitzSimmons running in a seven-yard touchdown to give Central Valley a 7-0 lead.
Central Valley scored late in the first quarter and waited until the last play of the half to get on the scoreboard again. Laurel Highlands found life in the second quarter but had a long field goal attempt get blocked to end the half.
The play resulted in Deniro Simpson scooping up a bobbled football and housing the blocked kick to go up 14-0 as the two teams went into the locker room. The change from 7-3, to 14-0 was highlighted even stronger by the fact that Central Valley started the second half with the ball after the score.
Central Valley had good field position due to a squib kick and did not take long to take advantage. Five plays into the half Bret FitzSimmons went 52 yards for a CV touchdown that put them up 21-0. The blocked kick wound up resulting in 14 CV points in under three minutes of game time, and LH not touching the football.
From that point, the lead started to feel insurmountable for Highlands, who worked so hard just to get into field goal range once. Highlands immediately punted, and Valley immediately got back to driving. FitzSimmons finished off the drive with a seven-yard touchdown, his third of the game, and the Warriors took a 29-0 lead after the two-point conversion was good.
Jayvin Thompson caught a short touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that gave Central Valley a 36-0 lead and put the mercy rule into effect. Gallagher scored late on a scramble, but with under five minutes to play, the game was out of hand by then.
Central Valley will play Thomas Jefferson next week in the WPIAL 4-A semifinals. The location is yet to be determined.