Early punt return spark for easy win for Central Valley

Not even three minutes into their game Friday night against Montour, members of the Central Valley offense stared at the scoreboard from the sideline to see their team had an early lead.

They had yet to run a single offensive play, but therein lay the beauty for the Warriors -- they didn't even have to, all thanks to Jordan Whitehead.

Central Valley's standout junior running back, one of the top playmakers in the WPIAL, took the first punt of the game 61 yards for a touchdown, setting the tone for himself and his team in a 38-0 victory against the host Spartans.

Central Catholic 24, North Hills 0

Central Catholic battles North HIlls in AAAA Northern Eight Conference matchup. (Video by Peter Diana; 9/7/13)

In the win, Whitehead rushed for 105 yards on 12 carries, but he made his most distinct mark on special teams with 94 punt return yards, helping the Warriors (2-0) earn a lopsided victory against a Class AAA Parkway Conference foe.

"When you have someone that can change the momentum, and everyone's had those type of weapons that can change the game, that allows you to get into your own offensive sets, and he did that," Central Valley coach Mark Lyons said. "If they had any momentum right out of the gate, we took it out of them."

After a three-and-out on Montour's first possession, Whitehead took the punt and sprinted along the sideline, going practically untouched before cutting across the field as the punter chased behind with no realistic hope of catching him.

Whitehead's return helped break open what was widely expected to be a competitive game, and when asked afterward if he felt like he needed to make a play like that, all he could do was smile.

"I actually did," Whitehead said. "One of us had to and whoever did it, it was going to be a good job by them. It just happened to be me."

Important as Whitehead's play was, it simply began the scoring for the Warriors.

Set up by another Whitehead punt return, this one for 33 yards, running back JaQuan Pennington plunged in the end zone from a yard out to double the lead to 14-0 with 8:34 remaining in the first half.

About three minutes later, Whitehead got his second touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run, turning the game into a rout.

The Spartans (1-1) would not get within 21 points in the second half as Central Valley went on to add two touchdowns and a field goal.

While Whitehead was undoubtedly the star on the offensive end, the Central Valley defense was equally impressive.

Montour gained just 143 yards and was held scoreless for the first time since Oct. 9, 2009. Running back Cole Macek, who ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns last week, was limited to 15 yards on 12 carries, unable to find holes behind a largely overpowered offensive line.

Montour played without quarterback Tynen Greer, thrusting Randall Labrie into the starting role. He completed three of his 11 passes for 24 yards and two interceptions.

Questions surrounded Central Valley entering the season, most of them regarding how to replace do-everything wide receiver Robert Foster, but in their second impressive win against a conference opponent, the Warriors looked like a Class AAA contender with another game-changing star.

And, regardless of the margin of victory, that's good enough for them.

"When you can go in someone's backyard in the Parkway and get a win, I don't care if it's by two or it's by 30," Lyons said. "We'll take them."


Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG. First Published September 7, 2013 4:30 AM


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