Central Catholic's Leo Loughrey, trying to get around Seneca Valley's Zach Bredl, has been the leader of a strong Vikings defense this season.
By Brad Everett Tri-State Sports & News Service
For Leo Loughrey, putting on a Central Catholic uniform every Friday night was a given.
Loughrey's father, Keith, was a former Vikings player, as were Leo's brothers, Mack and Sam. Both Mack and Sam played on teams that won WPIAL and PIAA titles.
"It means a lot to me," Leo Loughrey said. "Growing up, I went to every game since I was in second grade. [Playing for Central Catholic] is very important to me."
It's very important to Central Catholic, too.
Loughrey, a Shaler resident, is the undisputed leader of a Vikings defense that has helped the team reach the postseason with a 7-2 record after a third-place finish in the Class AAAA Northern Eight Conference.
A senior middle linebacker, Loughrey is described as a "throwback player." Loughrey's style of play consists of little flash and flare, but rather a hard-nosed, gritty and fearless attitude that has earned the respect of his coaches and teammates.
"He's the anchor in the middle," said Central Catholic coach Terry Totten. "It's the tone he sets. It all starts with him. He's a throwback. He's a very physical, downhill kid. He wears the equipment for a reason."
Added Loughrey: "People just say I'm old school, I guess just because I play tough and make hard hits. I like being called that, truthfully."
Loughrey has started at linebacker since his sophomore season. He also starts at fullback and has rushed for five touchdowns this season, including two in last week's 31-0 win at Butler.
Since cracking the starting lineup in 10th grade, Loughrey said he has gotten much faster and his ability to read opposing offenses has improved greatly. He now has an excellent grasp of Central Catholic's defense, which plays 4-4 and 4-3 formations.
Central Catholic has been, for the most part, borderline impenetrable defensively. The Vikings have five shutouts and have surrendered a total of 11 points in their seven wins. They allow an average of 8.1 points per game, which ranks them No. 2 in Class AAAA. That defense had its struggles, however, in the two losses, 34-7 at Seneca Valley and 28-0 at North Allegheny.
Those lopsided losses have provided the Vikings extra motivation, according to Loughrey.
"Against North Allegheny, I thought we played really well. I thought we stuck with them for three quarters," he said. "Against Seneca, I didn't think that was us out there. That wasn't truly who we are."
Loughrey is joined at linebacker by senior David Urso and juniors Niko Thorpe and Cody Troesch. The line consists of junior tackle Zack DeLuca, senior nose guard John Linkosky, junior end Angelo Natter and sophomore end Bryan Glover.
In the secondary, the Vikings start senior cornerback Todd Coles, junior cornerback Tre Tarpley and sophomore safety Joe Tindal.
"We've got some great play from Loughrey and DeLuca to stop the run, and the other guys have been playing with a lot of passion," Totten said. "They're all working together."
Totten said DeLuca "has been a flat-out warrior for us."
Loughrey not only brings Central Catholic toughness and skill, but he also gives the Vikings experience.
Considering the defense starts five juniors and two sophomores, the group doesn't have a ton of playoff experience. Loughrey, on the other hand, has started six playoff games, including two WPIAL semifinal contests.
"He's played in some big games for us," Totten said.
Come playoff time, Loughrey can't help but think of his brothers and the lengthy playoff journeys they had in high school before going on to play in college. Mack played on the 2004 team that went undefeated and won a PIAA title, before moving on to Columbia. Sam played on the 2007 team that also went undefeated and won a state title, prior to attending Lehigh.
Leo Loughrey, who has been offered by Bucknell, has dreamed of winning a WPIAL title since he was a young boy. To him, the thought of following in the footsteps of his brothers is almost indescribable.
"That would be the best thing I could ever think of," he said. "I think it would be amazing. I think we can do it. I don't think anything could touch that."