Central Catholic ready for Upper St. Clair's dual-threat QB
This time, Central Catholic knows his name.
Whether the Vikings have Pete Coughlin's number, or vice versa, is another story.
Coughlin came out of nowhere to stun Central in the WPIAL semifinals last season, making his starting debut in relief of injured star quarterback Dakota Conwell. Coughlin rushed for 209 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and completed 4 of 8 passes for 61 yards and another score.
“It was deflating, to say the least,” Central coach Terry Totten said. “We didn't know anything about him. As the game wore on, it was just apparent that it wasn't going to be our night and it was going to be his night.”
A year later, the Vikings (8-2) are seeking revenge when they play Upper St. Clair (9-1) in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Baldwin.
Coughlin, a 5-foot-10, 170-pounder, is hoping for an encore of that scintillating playoff performance.
“I was a little nervous, of course, it was my first start and against a great Central Catholic team,” Coughlin said. “They were ranked nationally and had a bunch of Division-I recruits. My teammates gave me confidence the whole week. It seemed like it would be so hard to fail with the trust they put in me and how hard they played beside me.
“It was shocking to me that my team played that well and I played that well.”
Despite entering this season with a bull's-eye on his back, Coughlin has been the catalyst for the Panthers, completing 73 percent of his passes for 1,078 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushing for 483 yards and eight touchdowns on 95 carries.
“He didn't catch anybody by surprise this year. They all saw what he did in that game and how he competed at Heinz Field against North Allegheny,” Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render said of Coughlin, who rushed for 63 yards and passed for 146 yards and a touchdown in the WPIAL final overtime loss. “There's no surprise element. People have been very conscious of him this year and what he can do.”
Coughlin proved against Peters Township in Week 3 that he wasn't a one-trick pony, completing 9 of 11 passes for 249 yards and five touchdowns.
“It made the whole WPIAL realize that they had to respect the pass now,” Coughlin said.
Where Central senior linebacker Leo Loughrey said the Vikings thought they “were going to come in and win” last year only to be surprised by Coughlin's quickness and elusiveness, they have a newfound respect for him this time around.
“What he did that evening was spectacular and unbelievable to us,” Totten said. “We had no idea that he had those kinds of skills.
“First of all, he's a very gutsy kid, a game kid, but his ability to beat you, make you miss and extend plays and throw downfield can be devastating. We certainly know what he can do, so we're trying to prepare for that.”
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7812.