GCC's defense faces stern test
When Jeannette defeated Greensburg Central Catholic 27-17 in last year's regular-season finale, it was a three-play sequence that ultimately decided the game.
The Centurions led 10-0 and were driving for another score late in the second quarter when the Jayhawks turned things around.
First, linebacker Anthony Matt made a bone-crunching hit to stop a Greensburg Central Catholic runner. On the next play, Jeannette defensive back Jurelle Powell intercepted a Greg Mroz pass inside the 5-yard line. Before the Centurions knew what happened, Jeannette running back A.J. Graves ripped off a 96-yard touchdown run.
Instead of going into the locker room at halftime with a comfortable lead, the Centurions were left stunned.
"The momentum shift turned quickly," Jeannette coach Bob Murphy said. "That series of plays gave us confidence."
Greensburg Central Catholic coach Muzzy Colosimo said: "We were leading at halftime, but I could sense the players were down."
Jeannette turned it on in the second half and walked away with the WPIAL Class AA Interstate Conference title.
The conference title is on the line again when the teams collide at 7 p.m. Friday at sold out Centurion Field.
While the shine of this game was diminished slightly when No. 7 Jeannette (7-1 overall, 5-1 conference) fell to East Allegheny, the game still means a lot to both squads.
In simple terms, theseschools don't like each other and a tough battle is expected.
"I wouldn't think they'll use last year's game as motivation," Murphy said. "That game is behind us. They're playing with a lot of confidence this season. No one has been able to stop them. We're looking forward to the challenge."
For the second time in two years, No. 3 Greensburg Central Catholic (8-0, 6-0) brings a perfect record into the game.
The Centurions also bring in a pretty stout defense, which has allowed only 46 points this season.
Leading the way is defensive tackle Alex Karabin, who has 23 tackles for losses and three sacks. Outside linebacker Max Suter has 11 tackles for losses, while inside linebackers John Rahl and Ryan Shoplik are the team's leading tacklers.
Colosimo said the credit for his team's defensive success belongs to defensive coordinator Dan Mahoney.
"He probably studies the game more than any coach I've been around," Colosimo said. "Dan knows what teams are going to do, and he puts the players in position to make plays. The players are so well schooled, they start yelling out team's plays on how they line up.
"We've played well defensively all year. We had safeties in four straight games. We'll bend a little, and then force a fumble or intercept a pass."
Defensive back Nathan Argenta and free safety Nick Sukay each have three interceptions, while defensive back Mike Baker has two. Defensive end Colin Trenk has recovered five fumbles.
The defense will be tested by Jeannette's skilled players -- quarterback Jordan Thomas and Graves.
Thomas, a senior, has completed 50 of 97 passes for 909 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also has rushed 499 yards and scored eight touchdowns. Graves, who missed a couple games with an injury, has rushed for 569 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Jayhawks will be without a couple key players. Running back A.J. Tarpley is ineligible, and offensive lineman Ryan Reitz has been out all season with a knee injury.
"People tend to overlook their defense," Murphy said. "But they're big up front, and they also have skill players. They are very deep at a lot of positions."
The Centurions, who average 38.9 points per game, have simply run over any team that has gotten in their way. They feature three tailbacks -- Mike Venditti (105 carries, 657 yards, 14 touchdowns), Suter (80, 658, 12) and Argenta (55, 407, 7) -- and two quarterbacks Rahl and Cody Catalina. Rahl has thrown for 250 yards and three touchdowns, and Catalina has passed for 444 yards and four touchdowns.
"Anytime I see a Jeannette team and football is involved, I know they'll be ready to play," Colosimo said. "They have a remarkable program, and football is an important part of their life. They have some very exciting offensive players that play to the end.
"I still consider them the team to beat because I've never beat them. We have to play to our strengths and attack their weaknesses. I don't expect them to go down easy."