GCC tops Jeannette, earns playoff spot after 0-3 start
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Three games and three losses into the season, it was hard for running back Tyler Balla to envision the Greensburg Central Catholic football team making the playoffs.
“At 0-3, nothing looks good,” Balla said. “Everybody's down. You can't help but think that your season's over. But we battled back, gave ourselves a chance, and we're in the playoffs.”
Balla ensured the Centurions bounced all the way back from that 0-3 start by running 38 times for 248 yards and a pair of scores to help down Jeannette, 41-14, and earn a playoff spot.
“Our offensive line overpowered them, and we rode them to victory,” Balla said of left tackle Jack Kilkeary, left guard Brian Pevarnik, center Jake Wallace, right guard Tommy Slavic and right tackle Nick Ireland.
Greensburg Central Catholic (5-4, 5-3) helped secure the No. 4 spot by following the wretched start with a four-game winning streak. Last week's last-second loss to Yough hurt, but Centurions coach Dan Mahoney knew the effort was there.
“They kept plugging all year, kept believing in each other and staying tight,” Mahoney said. “We kept getting better.”
One of the reasons GCC struggled early was the loss of quarterback Chase Keller to a collarbone injury. Keller played Friday for the first time since Week 2, completing 6 of 15 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
Jeannette (4-5, 4-4) scored on its opening possession when Terell Canady broke off a 38-yard run.
GCC later drove 87 yards on 12 plays in 5 minutes, 33 seconds for its first score: a 34-yard pass from Keller to Eddie Kilkeary, who leapt into the end zone.
Balla capped another 12-play drive with a 3-yard run at 3:47 of the second quarter.
Keller drove GCC 65 yards in 39 seconds late in the second quarter, and Balla made it 20-6 at halftime when he took a screen pass and found the end zone.
Balla made it 27-6 on GCC's first drive of the second half with a 31-yard run. That was answered by a 6-yard scamper from Jeannette quarterback Julian Batts, who threw for 136 yards and a touchdown.
The Centurions iced it with a nine-play drive — all runs — that Nate Stone capped with a 17-yard run midway through the fourth. Kilkeary added a 53-yard touchdown run late.
“They beat us up front,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “They took it to us.”
GCC's student section rushed the field after the game. Players posed for pictures with friends and celebrated with hugs. It was a scene few thought possible entering Week 4.
“We faced a lot of adversity,” Stone said. “We lost our quarterback the second week of the season. Best player on our team. We preach to these younger guys that adversity is what makes a team. It's not how many times you fall; it's how many times you get back up.”
Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.
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