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Central Catholic will be well-represented at Pitt-Syracuse game

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Syracuse linebacker Dan Vaughan makes a tackle during a game against Pitt at Heinz Field on Dec. 3, 2011.

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Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, 10:54 p.m.
 

The temperature reached 103 degrees on the field at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, and players kept stumbling to the sideline with cramps.

Oblivious to everything except his job, Dan Vaughan kept playing — on offense and defense — while helping lead Central Catholic to a 34-6, season-opening victory against Northmont (Ohio).

“He didn't come off the field for a single play,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. “He was one of the toughest players I've ever been around.”

It's five years later, and Vaughan, a backup linebacker at Syracuse, and Central Catholic teammates Tino Sunseri and Andrew Taglianetti will meet for the final time on a football field Friday when Pitt visits the Carrier Dome.

Much has changed in the past half-decade since Central Catholic won the 2007 PIAA Class AAAA title, its second in four years, with a 16-0 record. Vaughan and Taglianetti are graduate students. Vaughan is seeking a master's degree in TV, radio and film, and Taglianetti is pursuing an MBA.

Both are backups after spending much of last season as starters. Sunseri, a three-year starter, is playing better than at anytime in his career, improving to 15th nationally in passing efficiency.

The tie that binds the three players grew roots at Central Catholic.

“The best thing about our team, you felt like you were playing with brothers,” Sunseri said. “That's the one thing at Central that you can't get anywhere else.”

Said Vaughan: “Everybody knew everybody. Everybody cared about everybody.”

Pitt offered Vaughan a scholarship, but Syracuse was first in line. He also considered Stanford.

“I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do,” he said. “Eventually, Pitt ran out of scholarships, I believe.”

Totten said the team was special for the senior leadership provided by Vaughan, Quentin Williams (now a defensive end at Northwestern), Sunseri and Taglianetti.

“We got tremendous leadership from our captains,” Totten said. “We still talk about it. That kind of drove the sled. They refused to give in.”

Pitt wide receiver Cam Saddler remembers Vaughan after his Gateway team lost, 35-34, in triple overtime in the WPIAL title game.

“In the third quarter, he hit me one time. ...” Saddler said. “I told (Gateway and Pitt teammate) Shayne Hale, he better not hit me no more because I don't want no more of that.”

Vaughan's father, John, an offensive line coach at Central and a 35-year coaching veteran, will be in the Carrier Dome on Friday after Totten excused him from their game against Pine-Richland.

“Family's first,” Totten said.

After starting 11 games last year, Vaughan was demoted this season. He was disappointed, but — much like Taglianetti — embraced special teams.

“I didn't like the decision, obviously, but I am just here for the team,” Vaughan said. “My dad always told me, ‘Control the controllables.' ”

Sunseri said he stays in contact with Vaughan, just not this week.

“It's one of those things where you have a bond with somebody that goes past football,” Sunseri said.

Friendship, though, only goes so far.

“You want to make sure you get the win,” he said.

Note: Pitt received its 18th verbal commitment from the Class of 2013 when Cranford (N.J.) wide receiver Reggie Green (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) told coaches he plans to enroll.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com or 412-320-7997.

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