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Southmoreland awaits GCC in Interstate Conference tilt

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Before the 2013 high school football season started, many people expected Greensburg Central Catholic to be one of four teams to battle for the Class AA Interstate Conference title.

The Centurions started slow, going 0-3 in their first two games, but have strung together a pair of wins in the last two weeks to at least right their sinking ship and give the “Centurion Nation” hope for a return to the WPIAL playoffs.

Central opened the season with a 26-14 loss to currently unbeaten Washington. Shai McKenzie, who is now out for the season after suffering a torn ACL two weeks ago against Charleroi, rushed for 240 yards and scored three touchdowns against a defensive unit that was supposed to be one of the best in the Interstate Conference.

In week two, Central lost starting quarterback Chase Keller to an injury, and lost the game to Mt. Pleasant, 19-3.

Keller threw for 1,378 yards last season and added 15 touchdown passes to his resume. Keller also led the Centurions in rushing with 577 yards on the ground.

Week three saw the Centurions fall, 18-13, at the hands of Kittanning.

Central got in the win column in week four with a 35-20 win over Waynesburg as Tyler Balla rushed for 118 yards and four touchdowns.

Last week, Balla picked up right where he left off rushing for 221 yards and three touchdowns against Brownsville. Balla also reeled in a 53-yard touchdown pass in the Centurions' 35-6 romp over the Falcons.

Southmoreland should give the Centurions a stiff challenge this week.

The Scotties are coming off an emotional 14-13 win over Waynesburg and are looking to build some momentum heading into the second half of their schedule.

It will be the Scotties third home game played at California of Pennsylvania's Adamson Field since the turf at Russ Grimm Stadium was damaged by raging flood waters a week before the start of the season.

Without the services of Keller, the Centurions have turned the reigns over to Tommy Pellis. Pellis has continued to grow as the starter and last week he passed for 136 yards and a pair of scores for the Centurions.

Balla has become the primary ball carrier, but senior Nate Stone also will see carries for Central Catholic.

Defensively, the Centurions return six starters from last season's squad that fell in the opening round of the WPIAL playoffs to Seton-LaSalle.

Seth Warburton, Stone, Eddie Kilkeary and J.T. Astalos return at linebacker, and August Shotts and Jon Murray anchor the defensive line.

Last year, the Centurions pounded Southmoreland, 39-0.

The Scotties have a sour taste in their mouths after last season's beatdown, and would love nothing better than to upset the Centurions.

In order to do that, Southmoreland must key on stopping Balla. Stopping the Centurions from running the ball successfully has worked for the three teams that have defeated them this season.

However, the Centurions have found their running game in the last two weeks and have scored 73 points in those two contests.

Mark King is a contributing writer.

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