7:10 – It’s homecoming weekend at “The U,” better known, for our purposes, as Newman Stadium, as two-time WPIAL Class AAAA champion North Allegheny (4-0, 6-0) hosts Pittsburgh Central Catholic (4-1, 5-1) in a battle of playoff-bound Northern Eight Conference foes.
The Tigers, the No. 2 Quad-A team in the state according to MaxPreps, are coming off an impressive 14-3 non-conference win at Gateway, which drew some national attention for both programs. The Vikings, another team that could be formidable in postseason play, are coming off a 28-8 victory over conference rival Pine-Richland at The Wolvarena.
This is a battle of two of the top defensive squads in Quad-A. Up front Terry Totten’s group is very stubborn, having allowed just 7.5 points per game, while N.A. has given up just five per game. The Tigers have gone 18 consecutive quarters without allowing an offensive touchdown. In fact, they’ve gone 23 straight games without losing to a District 7 opponent. The last WPIAL team to beat North Allegheny was arch-nemesis North Hills at Martorelli Stadium, which Art Walker’s Tigers will visit in two weeks.
Both teams are missing a starter; Central Catholic linebacker Niko Thorpe and North Allegheny receiver Greg Garrity will not see action tonight.
As I said in my preview earlier today, when you look at how well both teams take away the run, this game could come down to which running game struggles the least.
We’ll have periodic updates on this game, and some of the others around the district this evening, so stick around…
7:32 – Central won the toss, and, moving left to right, starts the game at its own 34.
7:35 – Shafer Swann, related to Lynn, with a catch on the drive, but the Vikes go three and out. Elijah Zeise’s punt return gives NA’s offense the ball for the first time at their own 35.
7:40 – Leftwich hits Elijah Zeise, son of you-know-who, for a 38-yard TD pass with five minutes gone in the first quarter. Perfect toss right down the middle. Jason Buchert’s extra point makes it 7-0 Tigers. Zeise has been looked at by Pitt, Rutgers, and Maryland, with Georgia Tech as a possible wild card. 16th of the year for Leftwich, 4th for Zeise.
7:44 – Nice 14-yard pickup by Cam Sutherland for Central’s first first down of the game.
7:48 – Central, after a timeout, on the move, down 7-0. Good running by Luigi Lista-Brinza, who battled a high ankle a high ankle sprain earlier this year, and already has over 30 yards. Moments later, NA lineman and Michigan commit Pat Kugler draws an offensive holding call while getting in Consentino’s grill.
7:53 – Mitch Maczura attempts a career-long 44-yard field goal down the middle that falls well short. NA takes over at its own 20, still up 7-0, 1:18 left, first quarter. Interesting how the Tigers frustrate teams into making self-inflicted mistakes that kill drives.
7:55 – End of first quarter, same score. Leftwich of N.A. with 79 offensive yards in all.
7:57 – Leftwich, on the first play of the second, picked off by Garret Vrbanic on a deflection. Central in business at midfield…
8:00 – Other scores: Blackhawk leads Montour 14-6, Aliquippa up 7-6 on Ellwood City, Central Valley up 14-10 on Hopewell, Washington up 22-7 on Mt. Pleasant, Thom. Jeff. up 13-7 on Belle Vernon.
8:08 – Once again, NA’s defense is hanging tough, but Central is still in this game, down just 7-0 midway through the second quarter. Key play on NA’s last drive was an offensive holding call that wiped out a beautiful 42-yard sideline grab by Brendan Coniker that would’ve set up first-and-goal.
8:12 – Central calls its second timeout, same score, 2:46 left in half. Lista-Brinza, moments ago, walked off field under his own power. 66 yards on 15 attempts for him so far.
8:24 – Two-minute drill for the Tigers, who are still up by the same score, but out of timeouts…
8:30 – Halftime: NA clings to 7-0 lead over Central. A running into the kicker penalty on Central as half ended didn’t matter, as Buchert missed wide left on a 29-yard field goal. Vikings staying alive, and on a positive note for NA, make it 20 straight quarters without allowing a TD.
Great play by Leftwich, a Stephen F. Austin commit, to run 17 yards and get out of bounds with 0:01 left before the gun. He sees the field really well, one of the smarter QBs in Quad-A.
8:43 – Some halftime scores (or, in a few cases, late second quarter scores):
Aliquippa 34 Ellwood City 6
McKeesport 27 Connellsville 14
Washington 28 Mt. Pleasant 7
Central Valley 21 Hopewell 10
So. Fayette 62 Riverside 0
TJ 33 Belle Vernon 7
UPSET ALERT: Blackhawk 21 Montour 13
Penn-Trafford 14 Kiski Area 7
Bethel Park 10 USC 7
8:45 – Some halftime stats:
Luigi Lista-Brinza 65 yards on 16 carries
J.J. Consentino 2-of-7 for 21 yards, sacked once
Mack Leftwich 5-of-10 for 88 yards, TD, INT, sacked once; 4 runs for 47 yards
Alex DeCiantis: 54 yards on 10 carries
Central 2/7 on 3rd down, NA 2/3 on 3rd down.
Leo Loughrey with 6 tackles for Central, Jack Henderson having another nice defensive game with 3 solo for NA. 5.5 for Ben Schweiger of the Tigers.
9:00 – DeCiantis with over 30 yards rushing to begin NA’s first series of the second half. Tigers into Central territory. Good lateral movement by the senior on one or two of those runs. Grass roots offense by Walker working so far.
9:03 – NA extends its lead to 14-0 over Central on a 3-yard run by DeCiantis up the middle, who scores standing for his sixth TD run of the year, seventh TD overall. Great job of play faking by Leftwich prior to that play to create room and hit a wide open Zach Lyon to set up the score. Ben Ziolkowski kicks the P.A.T. this time. 45 rush yards for DeCiantis on the 72-yard scoring drive. 8:20 left in the 3rd.
9:07 – Nice job of trickery by Consentino, too, who faked to Lista-Brinza, then hit an open Loughrey for an eventual 23-yard gain into NA territory. But another pre-snap penalty, which has been a big story in this game.
9:15 – Hampton wins 49-0 over Derry, South Fayette wins 68-0 over Riverside, Steel Valley leads South Park 20-7 in the second half…and we have an upset in AAA! Knoch knocks off previously unbeaten Mars, 21-0.
N.A. still in control, 14-0, with 2:30 left in the third quarter. Tigers forced a turnover on downs after a nice solo tackle by Kugler blew up Lista-Brinza on 3rd-and-short. N.A.’s line then pressured Consentino into a bad throw. Leftwich in a zone right now.
9:17 – A long DeCiantis run inside Central’s red zone puts him over the century mark. Nice game by that young man.
9:24 – DeCiantis scores from a yard out for his eighth total TD of the year, and with 9:00 left in regulation, the Tigers have a 21-0 lead after Ziolkowski’s extra point. Gutsy call by Walker going for it on 4th-and-5; Leftwich did a great job following his extra tight ends to run for a first down that set up the score.
Stranger things have happened, but the way N.A. plays defense, this one looks to be over…
When was the last time Central was shut out? Hmm…get back to ya on that one…
9:28 – Lista-Brinza is just about at the 100-yard plateau, as that defense continues to flex its muscles.
9:38 – DeCiantis with a natural hat trick, if you will (not that I miss hockey or anything), as he scores on a four-yard run up the gut. 3:30 left in the game, and the Tigers, up 28-0, can celebrate an impressive win.
9:40 – The last time Central was shut out was Sept. 1, 2008 (Week One), in a 35-0 loss to–most appropriately–the Lakeland (FL) “Dreadnaughts,” a game that was played in Wheeling, WV.
Fumble recovery by the Tigers. Time for N.A. to really start celebrating homecoming now.
9:45 – FINAL: NA 28 Central 0. More to come…
(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)