If there is a team in the Northern Eight that can out-tough North Allegheny, it might be able to challenge for even more than a conference crown. In Week 2, locked in a battle of attrition with North Hills, Central Catholic proved with its 14-0 win at CMU’s Gesling Stadium it can muscle its way to Heinz Field.
Defensively, exempting the two-time district champs, the Indians might be the toughest test within the section the Vikings face all season. According to head coach Terry Totten, there’s a lot to be said for passing that test early:
For Central Catholic the play of its front seven was integral to pitching a second consecutive shutout. One particular x-factor, especially in the first half, was senior David Urso (6’2″, 200), whose physical play, while harkening back to his hockey background, punctuated that effort.
Urso is listed as a defensive back, but he often played up on the line of scrimmage against North Hills, putting pressure on quarterback Brian Johnson, and eventually forcing an interception that not only preserved a scoreless tie, but allowed fullback Leo Loughrey to break that tie with a 52-yard scoring run on the ensuing drive.
After the game Urso noted that he and his fellow Vikings know they can win by selling out to stop the run:
That’s going to be critical when N.A. hosts Central Oct. 12. Mack Leftwich is much more proven than Johnson, but North Allegheny also has several viable options in the backfield to balance that offense, which has already racked up 87 points. Gateway is the only Quad-A team to have scored more in its first two games.
Central Catholic, moving forward, needs to fight fire with fire, using Loughrey and company to spell junior Luigi Lista-Brinza, who originally burst onto the scene as a freshman getting reps for an injured Damion Jones-Moore.
Lista-Brinza did not reach the end zone last Friday, but he drove Central’s attack with 125 yards on 21 carries, and he also talked with us after converting a key third down that preceded Loughrey’s game-clinching second touchdown:
This Friday Central Catholic steps outside the conference, welcoming Canon-McMillan for another home game at 7:30. North Allegheny (1-0, 2-0), meanwhile, prepares for a very important contest against visiting Seneca Valley (2-0, 2-0) that can be heard Friday on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA at 7:30, with pre-game coverage beginning at 7:00.
The Raiders might be poised to take the biggest step forward of any team in the Northern Eight this season. Senior quarterback Jordan Brown has matched Leftwich with 26 completions, and has thrown five TD passes, one fewer than the Tigers’ signal-caller. There’s a possibility he might eventually be united with brother C.J. at Maryland, and Brown also has a solid running game behind him.
If Seneca Valley can at least hold its own against a team like North Allegheny, you’d better take it seriously as a playoff team. If N.A., which stomped Seneca in regular- and postseason play last fall, handles its business at Newman Stadium, the Northern Eight remains theirs to lose.
Don’t sleep on the Indians, either. Their defense will keep them in games all season long, and a more opportunistic offense would have left them in position to steal last Friday’s matchup with Central. If they can somehow get healthy again in the backfield, and if Johnson matures, North Hills will be formidable.
But until somebody else makes a statement, Central Catholic is North Allegheny’s biggest threat.
(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)