Top-ranked Central Catholic smothers No. 5 Seneca Valley
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When Central Catholic's Tre Tarpley made a last-second, touchdown-saving tackle, his Vikings teammates were overjoyed.
They were only ahead by six ... touchdowns.
Strong until the very end, that last-second stand gave Central Catholic the statement shutout it craved in Friday night's 42-0 victory over Quad North visitor Seneca Valley at Highmark Stadium. Both teams entered undefeated, but No. 1 Central Catholic (5-0, 4-0) showed its strength against a highly ranked opponent.
No. 5 Seneca Valley (4-1, 3-1), which was 4-0 for the first time in school history, hadn't been shut out since a 35-0 loss to Central Catholic in the 2009 playoffs. The Raiders had the ball at the goal line when time expired Friday.
“They got too close for comfort,” said linebacker Niko Thorpe, who strained his voice shouting encouragement in those final seconds. “I lost it. I can barely talk. When it hit triple zeroes I said, ‘Yes! Our mission is accomplished!' ”
It was the third shutout this season for the Central Catholic defense, which had two sacks and forced three turnovers.
“This shutout was important,” Tarpley said, “because people said we hadn't been challenged yet.”
Central Catholic's J.J. Cosentino rushed for a touchdown and threw three more, including a 35-yarder to Sutherland that enacted the mercy rule's running clock one play into the fourth quarter.
Minutes later, the Florida State-bound quarterback added a 96-yard touchdown pass to Shafer Swann.
“We came out of the locker room ready to go because they beat us last year,” said Cosentino, who completed 3 of 6 passes for 144 yards. His first touchdown pass, a 15-yarder to junior Graham Adomitis, gave Central Catholic a 14-0 halftime lead.
A 73-yard touchdown run by Luigi Lista-Brinza on the game's fourth play had Central Catholic ahead, 7-0. The senior had 179 yards on 19 carries but left in the third quarter after hurting his left ankle. The Vikings already held a 21-0 lead when Lista-Brinza walked off.
After shouldering the second-half offense, Cosentino also lifted Brinza onto his back for a postgame piggyback ride across the field.
“It's scary seeing him go down because he's such a good running back,” Cosentino said, “but he'll be coming back soon.”
Seneca Valley had early chances, including a first-quarter drive that reached Central Catholic's 22-yard line. A fourth-down pass by T.J. Holl was knocked away in the end zone.
Holl rushed for 122 yards on 22 carries.
“We thought we were moving the ball OK,” Seneca Valley coach Don Holl said. “We thought we were doing the things we game planned to do, but we didn't finish.”
Seneca Valley entered averaging 31 points. But Central Catholic had been allowing just a fraction more than three points, with shutouts over North Hills, 24-0, and Canon-McMillan, 56-0.
Fourth-downs weren't kind for Seneca Valley. A second-quarter fake punt lost yards and primed Central Catholic for its second touchdown drive. In the third quarter, the Raiders had a 13-yard punt and later failed to convert a fourth-and-2 near midfield. Central Catholic turned them all into touchdowns.
“Last year we lost on TV (to Seneca Valley, 34-7,) and it was very embarrassing for us,” Thorpe said. “Our coaches told us, simply, don't let it happen again.”
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