Montour-Central Valley blossoms into rivalry
Rivalries don't always need decades to develop, as Montour and Central Valley have discovered. Under the right circumstances, one emotional year might be enough.
"We've still got Moon, West Allegheny and Hopewell," said Montour quarterback Dillon Buechel, listing more traditional rivals, "but this last year, all you've heard is Central Valley this, Central Valley that. This is turning into a real rivalry."
The teams meet again Friday night at Montour in a rematch of last season's WPIAL Class AAA championship game. Montour entered Heinz Field last November unbeaten, but first-year program Central Valley left with the title.
It's a game neither side has forgotten.
"I'm sure their guys are pretty much looking for revenge," Central Valley coach Mark Lyons said. "I'm sure it's in the back of their minds that we were able to beat them in the game that mattered."
Yet this time the roles have somewhat reversed. It's Central Valley that's unbeaten and ranked No. 1, while No. 3 Montour readies for the upset.
"Everybody's looking at them as the top team of Class AAA," Buechel said. "Knocking them off would definitely catapult us back to where we thought we should be."
The Parkway Conference series stands tied at 1-1. Montour won the regular-season meeting last year, 12-7. Central Valley won the championship, 24-7. No, this rivalry isn't yet North Hills-North Allegheny or Aliquippa-Beaver Falls, but it's a game both sides have awaited eagerly.
"When you know you're going to play them the next year, kids start talking about that," Montour coach Lou Cerro said.
"Is Montour our top rival• It could be," Lyons said. "When you play on a bigger stage, that makes an instant rival."
With more than a dozen starters back from that title game, Montour began this year as the preseason favorite before losing to Hopewell. Since that 22-19 loss, the Spartans have won three straight games.
They've been led by tailback Julian Durden, one of the WPIAL's top rushers. The senior has 836 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, including four in last week's 35-25 victory over New Castle. It was the third time this year that Durden has scored four touchdowns in one game.
"We have to stop Durden," Lyons said. "He's been making a big run against everybody. I think he's twice as good as he was last year with his vision and his balance."
Central Valley's best weapon has been big plays. The Warriors have eight touchdowns of 60 yards or longer, including an 80-yard pass, a 75-yard kick return and a 72-yard run last week against Moon. But they've had even longer touchdowns other weeks, with a 91-yard fumble return by Justin Shaw and a 95-yards interception return by Jordan Whitehead among them.
"They take advantage of other teams' mistakes," Cerro said. "We've got to stop those big plays."
No matter the outcome, this rivalry always could resume come November.
Predicton: Montour 31-28
Lighting things up
High-scoring Central Valley and Montour have averaged nearly 40 points per game, fifth-most among WPIAL Class AAA teams.
Team — PPG
1. Franklin Regional — 47.4
2. Knoch — 43.2
3. Greensburg Salem — 42.6
4. Indiana — 40.4
t5. Central Valley — 39.4
t5. Montour — 39.4