East Xtra: A shocking finish for Central Catholic
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Central Catholic ran into Upper St. Clair in last year's WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs and was busy packing away its equipment for the season the following Monday morning. The Panthers handed the Vikings their only loss last year, 28-14, in the semifinals to put the wraps on an 11-1 campaign.
Nobody, however, anticipated the carnage that took place Friday night in a rematch of that game.
The Vikings opened the season fourth in the Post-Gazette's WPIAL Class AAAA rankings and did little to disappoint. Central Catholic only allowed three points through its first four games before falling to Seneca Valley, 34-7, in the fifth week of the season in a Northern Eight Conference showdown.
A 28-0 hiccup against top-ranked North Allegheny two weeks later was erased with consecutive lopsided shutout victories to close the regular season, getting the Vikings back on track to start the postseason.
Central Catholic held off Penn-Trafford in the first round of the playoffs, 30-27, behind leading rusher Luigi Lista-Brinza. Lista-Brinza, a junior, carried 27 times for 168 yards to lead the No. 11-seeded Vikings to the upset of the No. 6 Warriors.
Upper St. Clair, meanwhile, was building momentum of its own.
The Panthers, co-champions with Mt. Lebanon in the Southeastern Conference, lost only once in the regular season, 24-17, to Bethel Park Oct. 12. In the first round of the playoffs, the No. 3 Panthers took it to Kiski Area, 49-0, setting the stage for a battle against Central Catholic Friday night.
It was anything but a battle.
Central Catholic was competing in the WPIAL postseason for the 19th time and was handed its worst playoff loss ever, 38-0. Upper St. Clair (10-1) held the Vikings to just six first downs and 97 total yards and caused four turnovers, all of which resulted in points.
The Vikings (8-3) had an opportunity to avoid the shutout but had a 39-yard field-goal attempt by Mitch MacZura blocked late in the second quarter.
Lista-Brinza was held to 68 yards on 14 carries and finished the season with 960 yards on 155 carries. He will return next season, along with junior quarterback J.J. Cosentino and leading receiver Shafer Swann, also a junior.
Cosentino ended up completing 43 of 98 passes for 552 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, while Swann had 20 catches for 318 yards this season.
Central Catholic wasn't the only East Xtra region team to fall last week. The others:
The Gators are no strangers to the postseason, having advanced to at least the WPIAL quarterfinals every year since 2002. Gateway has been to the championship game three of the past six years.
But Friday night the Gators, seeded second in the Class AAAA playoffs after winning the Foothills Conference championship, ran into a hot Woodland Hills team that was seeded seventh. The Wolverines responded by holding the Gators to just 14 points, far below their 37.3 average, in posting a 17-14 victory.
It was only fitting that the ball was in the hands of quarterback Thomas Woodson for the final play. A catalyst for Gateway (9-2) all season, Woodson, who will play at the University of Arizona next season, was intercepted on a desperation pass to end the game.
Like Gateway and Central Catholic, Franklin Regional also lost in the semifinals last season and fell a game shy of that this year. And like the Gators, the Panthers will be losing an offensive mainstay next season.
Senior running back Dane Brown was held to 65 yards on 16 carries last week as the Panthers (8-3), seeded eighth in Class AAA, fell short to top-seeded Thomas Jefferson, 24-21. Franklin Regional's three losses this season were by a combined 11 points.
Brown finished with 860 yards on 125 carries despite missing several games with an ankle injury. He surpassed 4,000 yards for his career in the first round of the playoffs.
The Vikings (8-3) improved on a 6-4 finish last year and won a first-round playoff game after losing in the first round the past two seasons. Mount Pleasant was simply overwhelmed last week as it fell to top-seeded Aliquippa, 43-6.
Running back Tyler Mellors returns for his senior year next season after rushing for 1,490 yards on 173 carries this season.
First Published November 15, 2012 12:00 am