It was a game so lacking in style, flash and aesthetically pleasing offensive football that the halftime performance from the North Hills marching band might well have been the most organized and electrifying event of the night.
But in the end, Central Catholic could have cared less because the game produced something it can live with -- a win.
Senior fullback Leo Loughery rushed for two touchdowns and junior running back Luigi Lista-Brinza rushed for 124 yards on 18 carries, sparking No. 4-ranked Central Catholic to a 14-0 victory against North Hills Friday night at Gesling Stadium on the Carnegie Mellon campus.
Early on, when field position was one of the few barometers of success, North Hills seemed to have the upper hand.
An early turning point came late in the first quarter.
With four minutes left in the quarter, Central Catholic fumbled on a botched handoff at the 17, and North Hills recovered. The Indians, however, failed to capitalize when senior kicker Wayne Carney missed a 39-yard field-goal attempt.
"That first stand was big for us," said Central Catholic coach Terry Totten. "The ball was in our end most of the first quarter, and our kids hung on until we could get the field balanced and get something going. That was big for us."
As the second quarter began, it again appeared as if North Hills would end the scoreless tie and gain some momentum as senior running back Tyler Reddick sliced through Central Catholic's defense for a 38-yard run to the Vikings 2.
From there, the Indians (1-1) committed back-to-back penalties that pushed them back to the 20. On a third-down play, the pocket collapsed on senior quarterback Brian Johnson and, while he backed up trying to evade the pass rush, Johnson threw an ill-advised pass that ended up in the hands of Central Catholic's David Urso.
Taking over at their 26, the Vikings (2-0) put together a drive that finally turned into a touchdown on an inside handoff to senior fullback Leo Loughery, who stormed through a gaping hole for a 52-yard touchdown run that put Central Catholic ahead, 7-0.
"We practice that so much in practice," Loughery said. "It was just repetition -- all the time in practice we get that gap."
On their opening drive of the second half, the Vikings again turned the ball over in their territory. This time, North Hills recovered a fumble on the Central Catholic 38.
Again, the Indians again failed to take advantage of an opportunity as the offense advanced just 5 yards and Carney missed a 51-yard field goal.
In the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, the Vikings got a long run from Lista-Brinza that, after a holding penalty, moved them to the North Hills 26. Central Catholic gradually moved to the 1, and, from there, Loughery collected his second touchdown of the game as he plowed through the line to extend the lead to 14-0 and effectively put the game on ice with 6:35 remaining.
The game was marred by a barrage of penalties and uncharacteristically sloppy play.
After a first quarter in which there were no penalties, the teams went on to combine for 19 for 185 yards. Many of the plays in the second half included additional contact after the whistle.
"I wasn't happy with the penalties," Totten said. "We were pretty undisciplined -- a couple of procedure penalties, a couple of personal fouls. But the kids are working hard, and you just have to keep that energy and eliminate those mistakes."
North Hills and Central Catholic have offenses based on running the ball,, but both teams pass occasionally.
Last night, however, the teams combined for six completions on 18 attempts. In fact, the first completed pass did not arrive until Johnson connected with 5:33 remaining in the first half, nearly 20 minutes into the game. Another bad sign in the first half --there were only six first downs. Total.
So, even with the Vikings 2-0 in the young season, Totten knows that, in order to play better against next week at home against Canon-McMillan and beyond, his team still has a ways to go.
"I know North Hills is going to get better and I hope we're going to get better," Totten said. "If this was in November, it means a whole lot more than right now, but we're looking for some answers like everyone else."
First Published September 8, 2012 4:15 AM