PIAA playoffs / Vikings defense smothers Trojans to win

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ERIE -- McDowell quarterback Jake Tarasovitch had heard the rumors about Central Catholic's defense and seen them on film.

Nothing prepared him for the real thing.

The Vikings' front seven relentlessly attacked McDowell's quarterback Saturday, sacking Tarasovitch four times, hammering him on designed runs and giving him an extra shove whenever possible.

The shutdown defense and Vikings' power-running game gave WPIAL champion Central Catholic a dominant, 48-7 victory against McDowell in the PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinals Saturday at Veterans Stadium.

Central Catholic (14-0) will play Lower Dauphin (13-1) next week in the PIAA semifinals.

The Vikings dropped Tarasovitch for minus-14 yards on nine runs in the first half and allowed him just 1 yard on six carries in the second. Overall, McDowell gained 64 yards in total offense, including 25 yards on 36 runs.

"Watching them on film, they're great," Tarasovitch said. "I didn't expect it to be that tough, but they're the real deal."

Bruised and battered, Tarasovitch now will pull for Central Catholic the rest of the way.

"I hope they win states," he said. "They're the best team in the state and they're a worthy defeat. Honestly, I don't want to go out like that ever -- that was horrible -- but, as long as they win states, it's going to be like we lost to the best team in the states. That was a great team."

Central Catholic proved that early and often, forcing and recovering a fumble on the first play.

Quarterback J.J. Cosentino scored on runs of 1 and 7 yards to cap drives by the Vikings in the first half.

Even on the rare occasion when something went wrong for Central Catholic, the end result was positive.

Riley Redman netted 5 yards on a second-quarter punt that set McDowell up on the 38 with a chance to cut the lead to 14-7 before halftime. But the Trojans took an illegal-procedure penalty before the snap to make it first-and-15, and, when they finally ran a play, McDowell receiver Jamie Szymczak got crushed, Niko Thorpe recovered the fumble and ran 52 yards for another Central Catholic touchdown.

"He's been around the ball all year," Vikings coach Terry Totten said of Thorpe. "Good things happen when you're around the ball."

Punting was an issue for Central Catholic in the WPIAL championship and might have been the only thing it did poorly Saturday. Cosentino punted the next three times the Vikings had the ball, kicking 8, 18 and 29 yards, often setting up McDowell with great field position.

"The last two weeks in the wind we've had some issues," Totten said. "We have to tighten that up."

But, again, even when forced to punt, things worked out for the Vikings. McDowell mishandled one of Cosentino's punts deep in its own territory and gave Central Catholic the ball on the 3 in third quarter.

Luigi Lista-Brinza found a hole on the right side for a touchdown, highlighting an afternoon in which he gained 72 yards on 19 carries.

Tarasovitch hit Tyree Spearman for a 26-yard touchdown to get the Trojans on the board with 1:30 left in the third quarter, but any momentum was quickly wiped away when John Petrishen returned McDowell's onside kick 42 yards for a touchdown.

Redman ran 59 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter and Grant Foster scored from 5 yards.

Cosentino completed 2 of 6 pass attempts for 49 yards but two passes were dropped.

Central Catholic ran 42 times for 221 yards and five touchdowns.

McDowell played a WPIAL schedule from 2006-11 and has asked to join the league again for next season. The WPIAL will make its decision this month.

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