2013 PIAA Class AAAA Championship: Plenty of 'wow' factor to test Central Catholic's defense

CLASS AAAA

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Note: This game has been postponed from Saturday until 6 p.m. Sunday because of weather conditions in Hershey.

Central Catholic coach Terry Totten and his assistants got together Sunday night to watch some scary movies.

OK, so maybe nothing really frightens this Central Catholic football team. Squads that are 15-0 and ranked nationally generally aren't spooked by any opponent.

But what Totten and his assistants watched Sunday was at least eye-opening. They watched game footage of St. Joseph's Prep, Central Catholic's opponent in the PIAA Class AAAA championship Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.

"As a staff, we looked at each other Sunday night and just said, 'Wow,'" Totten said.

So maybe, for one of the few times in this postseason, Central Catholic will have a real test. Central Catholic has won six postseason games (WPIAL and PIAA) by 252-58. The only close game was a 27-21 victory against Gateway. The Vikings have won every other postseason game by at least 20 points and two PIAA games by 41 an 45 points.

St. Joseph's Prep (11-3) is sort of the Central Catholic of Philadelphia. In other words, an all-male, parochial school that is perennially strong.

"I think they are absolutely the best football team we'll see this year and that's saying a lot," Totten said. "The Woodland Hills and North Alleghenys are pretty good year in and year out."

In the past few weeks, Central Catholic has faced offenses that are strong on running. But St. Joseph's Prep is different.

"They present a whole new challenge because they are a team that can mix it up with the run and the pass," Totten said.

St. Joseph's Prep coach Gabe Infante said, "People always ask what's the hardest offense to defense. Well, it's balance. You could be any style offensively but as long as it's balanced and you execute well. We try to spread it around and keep defenses honest. I don't know if we can always do that, but we've been successful this year at trying to do that."

The leader of St. Joseph's offense is unquestionably quarterback Chris Martin. He has thrown for 235 and 243 yards the past two games. Despite missing two games with a knee injury, Martin has still completed 139 of 219 passes for 2,013 yards. He also has rushed for 455 yards on 90 carries.

"We are a quarterback-driven offense and obviously having a young man like Chris to pull the trigger is critical to our success," Infante said. "One thing that makes him a good player is he's very consistent, which I think is critical when you are playing in big games."

Martin has committed to Johns Hopkins University.

"The only thing about coaching a kid going to Johns Hopkins is you have to be careful because you know he's smarter than you," Infante said with a laugh.

St. Joseph's has four players with at least 275 yards rushing and the leader is Olamide Zaccheaus, who has 855 yards on 199 carries. The offensive line features 6-4, 255-pound Jon Daniel Runyan, the son of former NFL offensive lineman Jon Runyan.

But moving the ball against Central Catholic's defense has been next to impossible. In six postseason games, Central Catholic is allowing only 51.7 yards a game rushing and 116.7 yards a game overall. In the semifinals last week, Central Catholic held Lower Dauphin to one first down and 21 yards offense.

"I'm a defensive guy who has special appreciation for great defensive teams and their defense is fantastic," Infante said.

This is St. Joseph's first championship appearance since the Philadelphia Catholic League schools joined the PIAA in 2008.

This is Central Catholic's fifth title game appearance. The Vikings won titles in 1988, 2004 and 2007. They lost in the 2003 final.

"I think you are going to see a fiercely played football game Saturday," Totten said.


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