Central Catholic, Penn-Trafford set for first-round matchup
Talk to Central Catholic coach Terry Totten about the Vikings' WPIAL first-round playoffs opponent, and he sees much of his own team.
“They're like us,” Totten said of Penn-Trafford. “Some of their best guys are young guys. But I don't think they're giving anything away, fundamentally.”
Sixth-seeded Penn-Trafford entertains 11th seeded Central Catholic in a Class AAAA postseason opener Friday night, and both teams have carved their niche this season to enter the playoffs with 7-2 records.
Central Catholic relies on the running of junior Luigi Lista-Brinza; Penn-Trafford counts on the passing of Dorian Stevens, who returns after sitting out last week's 16-0 victory over Hempfield with an injury.
“We're healthy now, thank goodness,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said.
Central Catholic's defense has been stingy, giving up just eight points per game and registering shutouts in the past two. Penn-Trafford, though, is comfortable playing at home, where it's 3-1, the only blemish a 42-0 setback to No. 2 Gateway on Oct. 19.
The Gators knocked Penn-Trafford out of the 2011 WPIAL playoffs in the quarterfinals.
“What our guys understand about that game is that when you play a team of that caliber, you definitely see a difference in team speed,” Ruane said. “In that regard, I think it helped us.”
It also helps that the Warriors are coming off that shutout of Hempfield, despite playing without Stevens and running back Devin Austin, who has combined with Tom Stinelli to rush for more than 1,200 yards.
Stinelli carried the running load against Hempfield, gaining a season-high 162 yards.
“They are a good football team, well-coached,” Totten said. “John is a good football coach and a good guy. He's doing all the right things there. Their blocking schemes, their running game, the passing game, they're a very balanced team.”
Central Catholic has enjoyed decidedly better success in the postseason, winning WPIAL championships in 2003, '04 and '07 and reaching the semifinals in 2010 and '11.
Penn-Trafford, which lost to Central Catholic, 42-0, in the WPIAL first round in 2008, played for its only title in 1997, losing to Upper St. Clair, 28-27.
Lista-Brinza enjoyed a return to success he said as a freshman, when he rushed for 779 yards and eight touchdowns in 2010 while replacing injured starter Damion Jones-Moore, who is a freshman at Toledo.
After waiting to return to the lineup while backing up Jones-Moore in 2011, Lista-Brinza is bidding to surpass his rushing total of 2010. He gained 701 yards for a 6.5 average during the regular season.
“He's a bit of a grinder, a tackle-breaker,” Totten said. “He's a fantastic guy, a fantastic player.”
Central Catholic reached the WPIAL semifinals in 2011 with Jones-Moore in the backfield behind quarterback Perry Hills, the Maryland recruit who was the Terrapins' starter as a freshman until a torn ACL ended his season Oct. 20 against N.C. State.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-5617.