Central Catholic takes down Woodland Hills for WPIAL Class AAAA crown
Graham Adomitis wasn't quite sure why his 66-yard run was a touchdown, and neither were the Central Catholic teammates who escorted him.
But afterward, they knew it was huge.
Urged along by his coach, Adomitis advanced a Central Catholic punt that failed to reach the line of scrimmage in Saturday afternoon's 27-7 victory over Woodland Hills, a momentum-building touchdown in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship at Heinz Field.
For at least a few seconds, there was confusion.
“Everybody on our sideline was asking what just happened?” Central Catholic senior linebacker Niko Thorpe said. “Plays like that don't happen ever. That was a big momentum shift. We saw the game turning in our favor.”
Central Catholic tailback Luigi Lista-Brinza rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns, quarterback J.J. Cosentino ran for another score and a defense led by Thorpe's 13 tackles allowed little more than 2 yards per carry.
But this WPIAL championship victory, the fourth for No. 2 Central Catholic (13-0), might best be remembered for Adomitis' improvised second-quarter run on a snowy afternoon when the football bounced the Vikings' way.
“That was a biggie,” Woodland Hills coach George Novak said. “We were fighting to get back in the game.”
No. 4 Woodland Hills (10-3) was seeking its sixth WPIAL title and a seventh for Novak. But the Wolverines managed just 85 yards on 39 carries. Their only points were from a third-quarter touchdown run by Harry Randall.
Central Catholic had 250 yards on 47 carries behind a strong offensive line. When swirling snow blanketed the turf, Central stayed on the ground. The Vikings asked their Florida State-bound quarterback to throw just two passes.
The winter weather and sloppy surface favored Central Catholic's power style over Woodland Hills' wide-open approach, Novak said.
Lista-Brinza had a 13-yard touchdown in the first quarter and a 4-yarder in the fourth. Cosentino scored a 3-yarder 20 seconds before halftime to lead, 20-0. The Vikings have outscored opponents, 311-27.
District 10 champion Erie McDowell (7-5) awaits in the PIAA playoffs.
This was Central Catholic's first title since 2007, when Gateway missed an extra point in overtime of that 35-34 game.
“There's no Central Catholic game without a ridiculous play,” senior lineman Dan O'Neill said. “I'm glad it was Graham; he deserved it. He came (to Central Catholic) as a quarterback and here we have a Florida State recruit.”
Facing a fourth-and-7 at his own 43-yard line, Central Catholic punter Riley Redman's kick settled 9 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Leading just 7-0 with seven minutes until halftime, Redman punched at the air, unhappy Woodland Hills had a short field.
Adomitis lifted the rolling football from the 34-yard line and looked around for a referee. But to almost everyone's surprise, the play wasn't over.
“I was just going to walk it over to the refs, but I heard coach (Rick) Capretta from the sideline yell to run,” Adomitis said. “I just took off running and didn't hear a whistle. Next thing I know, I was tackled by my own teammates in the end zone.”
Woodland Hills, trailing by a touchdown, almost had possession 34 yards from the end zone. Instead, at 6:58 before halftime, Central Catholic led, 13-0.
“I can't say that I knew the rule, but I'd seen this once before in my 30 years,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. “Credit Coach Capretta for knowing it and telling Graham to pick it up. ... That was a tremendous turnaround at that point in the football game and gave us some momentum.”