No. 1 North Allegheny grounds down No. 7 Central Catholic
Seven times in a row North Allegheny gave the ball to halfback Alex DiCiantis, showing an approach that was predictable, yet powerful.
“I love getting the ball and being able to put the team on my shoulders,” said DiCiantis, who rushed 29 times for 157 yards and three touchdowns in Friday night's 28-0 Quad North victory over No. 6 Central Catholic at Newman Stadium.
DiCiantis scored on runs of 4, 1 and 4 yards. That was plenty for a defense that hasn't allowed a touchdown since the second quarter of Week 2, a streak that has reached 22 quarters.
The No. 1 Tigers led, 7-0, at halftime on a touchdown pass from Mack Leftwich to Elijah Zeise, but they ran away with power in the second half. DiCiantis scored all three TDs after halftime for an offense that began the third quarter with seven consecutive runs by DiCiantis.
“Our team gets stronger as the game progresses,” he said.
It was a key victory for North Allegheny (7-0, 5-0), one week after a much-hyped nonconference road victory over then-No. 2 Gateway. The Tigers have won 21 consecutive conference games at home, dating to 2005.
A 38-yard catch by Zeise gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 6:59 left in the first quarter. It was the fourth touchdown catch this season for Zeise.
“We want to be able to throw it deep, play-action and run hard,” NA coach Art Walker said, “and make people defend all three of those phases.”
Leftwich completed 8 of 15 passes for 142 yards, and also threw a second-quarter interception. So, after halftime, North Allegheny leaned heavily on its ground game.
DiCiantis had 103 yards in the second half on 19 carries. His 4-yard touchdown with 8:23 left in the third gave North Allegheny a 14-0 lead. His 1-yard touchdown with 9:08 left in the fourth, and his 4-yarder with 3:34 left sealed the victory.
“We just buckled down and pounded it,” said Jeremy Gonzales, who centers a talented NA offensive line. “We have the technique, we have the size, we have everything.”
North Allegheny had 405 yards on 45 offensive plays, including 45 rushes for 263 yards. Leftwich rushed for 75 yards on nine carries.
Central Catholic (5-2, 4-2) had just 133 offensive yards on 39 plays. Luigi Lista-Brinza had 108 rushing yards on 23 carries.
Mistakes hurt the Vikings.
A holding penalty and a false start two snaps later thwarted Central Catholic's best scoring chance, a first-quarter drive that had reached NA's 19-yard line. Facing fourth-and-17, Mitchell MacZura had a 44-yard kick fall short. A third-quarter miscue ended another promising drive.
Facing fourth-and-4 at NA's 29, a shotgun snap slipped past quarterback Joseph Consentino, who chased it down and threw a hurried lateral that bounced out of bounds for a 10-yard loss with 3:35 left in the third. That was the last time Central crossed midfield.
“We played with them for a half, but it just got away from us in the second,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. “They're very good. You can't make mistakes and we did.”
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.