Hard work branches into success, which yields to the all-encompassing expectation.
The Greensburg Central Catholic football team has arrived at the expectation part. But can you blame anyone if they think the Centurions are going be among the PIAA's elite Class AA teams this year?
Just look at the numbers.
Three players -- quarterback Cody Catalina, running back-defensive back Max Suter and receiver-defensive back Nick Sukay -- are headed to Division I schools on scholarship. Catalina and Suter are Syracuse-bound; Sukay will play at Penn State.
That triumvirate accounted for more than 3,900 yards last season and 42 touchdowns in helping the Centurions to the WPIAL title game. The Centurions' only defeat was at Heinz Field in a 24-20 loss to eventual PIAA champion South Park.
Further adding credence to those expectations is this: Through the first nine weeks last year, Greensburg Central scored an average of 45 points, while opponents mustered just 3.2 per contest. Often times Greensburg Central's starters were on the sideline after playing only about half the game.
Jumble all that numerical data together and the common denominator is this: Expectations have hit a crescendo heading into this season.
"The expectations are as high as they have ever been," Sukay said. "People have been talking about us and I think we've handled it well. But, honestly, from the standpoint of the players, I think it would be looked at as a disappointment if we didn't win a state championship. That is how we are thinking right now."
A heavy ingredient in that motivation is the loss to South Park. The Centurions took an early 7-0 lead in the title game and held a 14-7 advantage at one point early in the second quarter. But it all crumbled.
"To think about having to leave that field the way we did hurts every time it crosses your mind," Sukay said. "It is a motivating factor."
So much so, that it has become almost innate with the players.
"I don't have to talk with the players about losing the WPIAL championship game last year," coach Muzzy Colosimo said. "It is just something that they all have in their minds. I haven't talked about it once. Believe me, they don't need [to be] reminded."
And they don't need to be reminded that they are heavy favorites to make another deep run.
"This is the most anticipation and the most expectation for a team that I have ever been around," Colosimo said. "People are always asking me, 'How are you going to top last year?'
"I tell them that it is going to be tough."
Tough, yes -- but also clear and defined. The only way to top last year for this group is to win a WPIAL title ... and maybe more.
TEAM TO BEAT
Greensburg Central Catholic Players, coaches and fans have talked about how this team could be the best assembled since the school opened in 1959. The Centurions are loaded with talent, particularly at the skill positions, but the difference in whether or not they raise a trophy will be the play of the line, especially Jake Kaiser (OT, 6-8, 289).
Yough The Cougars were a playoff team in Class AAA last season but dropped to Class AA in the offseason classification retooling. Senior Justin Shaffer (QB, 6-3, 185) threw for more than 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He'll team with senior Craig Sedunov (RB, 5-11, 185) to offer a formidable offensive attack.
Jeannette There's no doubt junior Terrelle Pryor (QB, 6-6, 220) is one of the most potent weapons in Class AA. Last year, he accounted for 12 touchdowns and led the Jayhawks to eight consecutive wins to start the season. But others need to step up around him.
Washington Alex Evans (6-1, 180) played QB last year and led the Prexies to a playoff win during a season in which the team dealt with a teachers' strike. He'll play running back this year.
McGuffey The Highlanders have the potential to make a run at a playoff spot, with "run" as the key word. They boast the offensive backfield tandem of seniors Ben Dunaway (FB, 5-10, 185) and Chris Sibert (TB, 5-9, 180).
Waynesburg Tony Cree (6-0, 190) accounted for more than 1,000 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns last year as a junior and needs to build on that for Waynesburg to be a contender.
East Allegheny First-year coach Dennis Edwards took the job and immediately moved senior Lee Marts (6-2, 205) from tight end to quarterback. Junior Chris Loving (RB, 5-5, 150) is diminutive, but he's a force.
Brownsville The Falcons haven't made much noise since they reached the WPIAL semifinals in 2000. Since then, Brownsville has been 11-35.
Southmoreland The Scotties went winless last year, but senior lineman Heath Handford (6-5, 240) returns and is very solid.
FIVE TO WATCH
Cody Catalina, Sr., Greensburg Central Catholic, QB, 6-4, 210; Alex Evans, Sr., Washington, RB/DB, 6-1, 185; Terrelle Pryor, Jr., Jeannette, QB, 6-6, 220; Justin Shaffer, Sr., Yough, QB, 6-3, 185; Nick Sukay, Sr., Greensburg Central Catholic, WR/DB, 6-2, 200.
GAME OF THE YEAR
Yough at Greensburg Central Catholic, Sept. 29.
Colin Dunlap can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1459.