Central Catholic's Thorpe drawing attention from colleges


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Central Catholic's defense likes to call itself the "Chain Gang." For one of the Vikings' standout defensive players, a chain reaction of events is leading to a probable future in college football.

The more Central Catholic wins, the more games they play. The more games the Vikings play, the better linebacker Niko Thorpe performs. The better Thorpe performs, the more college coaches are noticing.

In the past few weeks, Thorpe has taken his game to its highest level and he also has received scholarship offers from Lafayette and Stony Brook, two NCAA Division I-AA programs. Also in the past few weeks, Temple, Villanova and Georgetown have stepped up their recruiting of Thorpe.

Thorpe and Central Catholic will play St. Joseph's Prep in the PIAA Class AAAA championship game Saturday in Hershey against St. Joseph's.

"The Monday after the WPIAL championship, a few college coaches came by, and the day after that, a few more," Thorpe said. "By the end of the week, coaches were lined up at our practice. The longer the season goes has definitely helped everyone with their recruiting."

A few opposing coaches have commented in recent weeks how impressive Thorpe has been.

"This is probably the best I've played since I was probably 10," Thorpe said.

At 5 feet 10, 245 pounds, Thorpe probably would be recruited more heavily if he was a little bigger, but he has found his niche at linebacker. He used to always think he would be a running back and he showed plenty of promise there as a sophomore at Shaler. He transferred to Central Catholic before his junior season.

"There were no signs of me playing on the defensive side of the ball at all when I was younger," Thorpe said. "But when I came to Central, my dad was talking to the coaches and I was talking to the coaches. I was told there was an opening at linebacker. I'll take any position. Whatever can get me on the field."

Three for the WPIAL

Central Catholic is one of three WPIAL teams that have made it to PIAA title games. South Fayette made it in Class AA and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic in Class A.

The PIAA championships started in 1988, and this is the 11th time that three WPIAL teams have made the finals. Four teams made it seven times and two teams six times. In 2011 and 1989, only one WPIAL team made the championships.

Half of the field in the PIAA finals has never been to a title game. Those four teams are St. Joseph's Prep, Imhotep Charter, Old Forge and North Catholic.

Looking ahead

Here is a little on what the WPIAL will face in the PIAA championships:

* In Class AAAA, Central Catholic takes on a St. Joseph's Prep team that has lost two games -- to Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) and Archbishop Ryan. St. Joseph's Prep is a perennial power in the Philadelphia Catholic League. Maybe the school's most well-known football alum is former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon.

This team also features a talented quarterback in senior Chris Martin, who has thrown for more than 2,000 yards despite missing a few games with a knee injury.

* In Class AA, South Fayette faces an Imhotep Charter team that has two seniors who already have committed to Division I schools. Defensive back De'Andre Scott has committed to Arizona State and offensive lineman Aaron Ruff to Temple.

Imhotep has a strong running game that averages 303 yards a game. Three players have at least 950 yards rushing and two of them are sophomores. Junior Nasir Bonner has 1,199 yards, sophomore Ty Raynor has 1,033 and sophomore Mike Waters has 957.

* In Class A, North Catholic meets an Old Forge team that has 6-2, 190-pound running back Brandon Yescavage, who has rushed for 2,693 yards this season. Old Forge has decent size on the lines, averaging 6-1, 233 pounds on offense and 6-1 1/2 and 244 pounds on defense.

Brumbaugh chasing brother

South Fayette quarterback Brett Brumbaugh has a good chance to break the WPIAL record for passing yardage in a season. The record is held by his brother, Christian.

Christian Brumbaugh had 3,726 yards passing in 16 games in 2010. Brett Brumbaugh, a South Fayette junior, needs only 111 yards in the PIAA final to break his brother's record. He has thrown for 3,616.

Curry back for more?

Berwick lost to Archbishop Wood, 42-14, in the PIAA Class AAA semifinals Saturday, and the question is does the loss end George Curry's coaching career?

Curry is the all-time winningest coach in Pennsylvania who is in the second year of his second stint at Berwick. He has coached Berwick for 37 years and 44 seasons overall. His record is 437-97-5. Berwick's quarterback the past two seasons was Curry's grandson, C.J. Curry.

Swanson to Toledo

Aliquippa running back Terry Swanson has decided he will play next season at Toledo in the Mid-American Conference.

Swanson made a verbal commitment to Toledo, choosing the Rockets over offers from Temple and Akron, among others. Swanson finished his career as the third-leading rusher in Aliquippa history with 4,333 yards on 366 carries.

Aliquippa teammate Dravon Henry is supposed to announce his college choice today. Pitt and West Virginia are his top two schools.

For more on high school sports, go to "Varsity Blog" at www.post-gazette.com/varsityblog. Mike White: mwhite@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1621 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.


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