The snow started in the second half Saturday of the WPIAL Class AAAA championship. But for the entire game, Central Catholic's defense reigned.
The Vikings defense likes to call itself the "chain gang," and on this day it had no weak links, turning in one of the best performances in recent Class AAAA final history. The undefeated Vikings threw in a strong running game on offense and the result was a 27-7 victory against Woodland Hills at Heinz Field.
It was the fourth WPIAL title for Central Catholic since joining the league in the mid 1970s, and this one will be memorable for the defensive performance as well as one of the craziest plays in WPIAL championship history. Central Catholic actually scored a touchdown after it punted the ball and it went behind the line of scrimmage before a Vikings player picked it up and ran for a score.
Central Catholic 27, Woodland Hills 7
Central Catholic takes on Woodland Hills in the Class AAAA WPIAL Championship at Heinz Field. (Video by Andrew Rush; 11/23/13)
But the big story still was Central Catholic's defense. The Vikings (13-0) held Woodland Hills to 85 yards rushing on 39 attempts and 141 total yards. The yardage total ties for the second lowest in a Class AAAA final since 2000. Gateway had only 141 yards in 2004 and Gateway also was held to 107 in 2008.
"Our defense is really playing well. They're just flying to the ball," Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. "There's a lot of speed out there with that defense."
"That could have been our best defensive game," Central Catholic defensive coordinator Dave Fleming said. "Just because Woodland Hills has weapons everywhere on offense. But we really pride ourselves on big-game performances."
In four WPIAL playoff games, Central Catholic gave up averages of only 67 yards rushing and 140 total yards. That defense helped hand Woodland Hills its third title-game loss in four seasons. The Wolverines finished 10-3.
"Coach Fleming instills a tenacity in us and the will that we don't stop," Central Catholic linebacker Niko Thorpe said. "Everyone is running around every play. We've all bought into it."
Thorpe, a senior, finished with 13 tackles, including three for a losses, and also recovered a fumble. But Central Catholic's defensive front of Zack DeLuca, Rich Ryan and Angelo Natter also was outstanding.
On offense, Central Catholic got 136 yards rushing on 27 attempts from Luigi Lista-Brinza, who excelled despite a bum ankle.
"They have a great team and they played well on both sides of the ball," Woodland Hills coach George Novak said. "Their lines are very quick, the linebackers are good and they have power running."
The game was essentially over at halftime when Central Catholic took a 20-0 lead to the locker room. Two key plays in the first half were punts. To be more exact, punts that went backwards.
The first came on Woodland Hills' first possession when Woodland Hills punter Donte Broadus had the ball go sideways off his foot. The wind took it and it ended up a punt of minus-3 yards. Central Catholic took over at the Woodland Hills 29 and Lista-Brinza scored five plays later on a 13-yard run.
The strange but true play came in the second quarter. With the ball at the Central Catholic 41, the Vikings' Riley Redman punted, but the ball went off the side of his foot and went sideways. It hit and started rolling backwards. Central Catholic tight end Graham Adomitis decided to pick up the ball at the 34, thinking he was downing it. He stood still for three seconds with the ball in his hands as every player on both teams pretty much stopped.
With Central Catholic assistant Rick Capretta sprinting up the sideline and yelling "Run," Adomitis then took off for a 66-yard touchdown officially scored as a rush.
It seemed no one, except Capretta, knew a punt could be advanced by the punting team if the ball goes behind the line of scrimmage.
"I didn't know the rule," Adomitis said with a laugh. "I was just going to walk the ball over to the referee and I heard Coach Capretta yell run. So I took off running, didn't hear a whistle and the next thing I knew I was being tackled in the end zone by my teammates."
Totten said: "May I credit the referees? Refs take so much abuse but every one of those refs knew the rule. I can't say I knew the rule."
Quarterback J.J. Cosentino added a 3-yard touchdown run with 3:21 to go in the half.
Woodland Hills started the second half with energy, going on a 59-yard drive that ended with Harry Randall's 1-yard touchdown run. But the Wolverines couldn't do much offensively the rest of the game.
Lista-Brinza closed out the scoring on a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
First Published November 23, 2013 5:12 PM