It didn’t take long for Lower Dauphin coach Rob Klock to realize what his team was up against Saturday in a PIAA Class AAAA semifinal.
In fact, it took only one play.
“To be honest with you, on the first play, the hitting that went on, I just knew it,” Klock said.
After that, Klock knew his team might be in for a rough time, and his worst fears were realized the rest of the game.
Central Catholic put on yet another impressive defensive performance in the postseason and crushed Lower Dauphin, 45-0, at Altoona’s Mansion Park Stadium.
The win puts Central Catholic in the PIAA title game Saturday in Hershey against St. Joseph’s Prep of Philadelphia, which defeated Neshaminy, 37-21, in the other semifinal.
Central Catholic (15-0) came into the game allowing only 58.8 yards rushing and 140 yards overall in five postseason games. Then came these jaw-dropping defensive numbers:
• Central Catholic held Lower Dauphin (13-2) to one first down.
• Central Catholic held Lower Dauphin to 21 yards of offense, including 15 on the ground.
• Troy Spencer, Lower Dauphin’s vaunted running quarterback, was held to 21 yards rushing on 12 carries. He came in with 1,579 yards for the year.
“We saw the film and knew how good they were,” Klock said. “They’re real good.”
Overall, it was a record-breaking performance by Central Catholic. The 45-point margin was the biggest blowout in the 26-year history of PIAA Class AAAA semifinals.
The defensive performance brought back memories of a performance by the 2004 Vikings defense in the PIAA semifinals. On the same field, Central Catholic defeated Bishop McDevitt, 44-0, and held future Pitt and NFL running back LeSean McCoy to 39 yards rushing on 22 carries. He came in with 2,788 yards rushing.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been associated with anything like this,” said Central Catholic coach Terry Totten, the defensive coordinator on the 2004 team. “It just looked like we were overtaking the football [against Lower Dauphin]. We were taking away the line of scrimmage and when they tried to go wide, we had someone in the quarterback’s lane. They don’t pass a lot, so they didn’t have any options left.”
Spencer completed only 1 of 5 passes, but the one completion did not gain any yardage.
“We ran into a buzz saw,” Klock said. “That’s a quality football team.”
Central Catholic linebacker Niko Thorpe was one of the defensive standouts.
“It’s a great time to peak, but we’re not peaking yet because we still have one more game,” Thorpe said.
While Lower Dauphin’s running game went practically nowhere, Central Catholic chewed up 238 yards on the ground. Luigi Lista-Brinza led with 127 yards on 19 carries.
Central Catholic led, 7-0, after the first quarter on Riley Redman’s 10-yard touchdown run.
Lista-Brinza scored two of his three touchdowns in the second quarter on runs of 3 and 19 yards. Mitch MacZura made it 24-0 with a 29-yard field goal, and the Vikings got one more score before halftime when Shafer Swann caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from J.J. Cosentino with 47 seconds left in the second quarter.
Central Catholic scored twice in the third on a 19-yard run by Lista-Brinza and a 69-yard punt return by John Petrishen.
“We are playing very confident football right now, but I think we will have our hands full out there [in Hershey],” Totten said.