Central Catholic stops the run, routs Penn-Trafford in semis
Central Catholic's defense prides itself on making its opponent one dimensional by stuffing the running game.
Penn-Trafford found out that the hard way Friday in the WPIAL Quad A semifinal game at West Mifflin.
No. 2 Central Catholic (12-0) held Penn-Trafford to a minus-9 yards rushing in the first half, took advantage of great field position throughout the game and rolled to a 49-10 victory.
Central Catholic will play Woodland Hills for the WPIAL championship on Nov. 23 at Heinz Field. Penn-Trafford (8-4) finished with 36 yards rushing, 31 on the final drive against the reserves.
Riley Redman scored two touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 84 yards, and quarterback J.J. Costentino rushed for one score and hit Devin Faloon with a 6-yard touchdown pass. Faloon also scored on a 9-yard run.
Central Catholic lost starting running back Luigi Lista-Brinza to a leg injury in the second quarter. Lista-Brinza had rushed for 43 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
“We work hard on our special teams, we were opportunistic on defense and our ground game finally got it rolling, so we were happy with those three things,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. “We had to get off the ball and cover the gaps against their zone offense. We knew if we weren't ready, we'd be in for a long night.”
The Central Catholic defense set the tone early. After Penn-Trafford running back Tom Stinelli gained five yards on first down, the defense took over, stopping Stinelli for a 6-yard loss on second down and sacking quarterback Brett Laffoon for five more yards on third down.
Then after a short punt, giving the Vikings the ball at the PT 24, Central Catholic went to its ground attack and eight runs later Lista-Brinza scored on a 1-yard plunge.
Penn-Trafford, behind Laffoon's arm, put together a nice scoring drive that ended up with a 30-yard field goal by Jake Proskin. Laffoon hooked up with Timmy Vecchio on a 31-yard pass play during the drive.
Ronnie Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to the Penn-Trafford 36, setting up another score. Central Catholic punted once in the game and never started a drive in its own territory.
“We've got guys on the special teams that can make magic and we were setting up the walls well,” Totten said. “It's something we work on a lot.”
Three second quarter touchdowns pushed the lead to 28-3 at halftime.
“We couldn't run the ball and that killed us,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “They were the best team we've seen all season and it didn't help our cause that our special teams were really bad.
“They had four touchdown drives in the first half that were 30 yards or less. It was ridiculous; I've never seen anything like it. We just didn't have it.”
Penn-Trafford opened the second half by recovering an onsides kick. But Central's defense held and Redman scored the first of his two touchdowns.
The Warriors only bright spot of the second half came moments later when Timmy Vecchio returned the kickoff 96 yards for the score.
But before the third quarter was over, Central Catholic scored two more touchdowns and put the game in the ‘Mercy rule' for having a 35-point lead in the second half.
Central Catholic defensive end Zach DeLuca said it was a team effort.
“We play as one,” DeLuca said. “We just wanted to come out and shut them out. We wanted to run them over.”
Central Catholic outgained Penn-Trafford, 233-87. The Vikings also had 134 return yards.
Totten said getting back to the finals was important after coming up short in 2012.
“We left the field under a very dark cloud, we lost to a very good team. The team got together and worked very hard being on Jan. 9. I'm happy for them that we're going back.”