East Xtra: Central Catholic challenges No. 1 team
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Central Catholic coach Terry Totten would love to see his team play an old-fashioned, low-scoring football game Friday night against North Allegheny.
"That would be my wish," he said. "I just don't know if we can hold them down."
The Vikings (5-1, 4-1), ranked among the Post-Gazette's top five teams in WPIAL Class AAAA until a loss to Seneca Valley two weeks ago, travel to Carl A. Newman Stadium to take on top-ranked North Allegheny (6-0, 4-0) in a key Northern Eight Conference battle. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
"North Allegheny is very, very good, very well-coached, playing at a very high level," Totten said. "They have a lot of experience, both in game reps and big-game reps. Their quarterback is outstanding, two or three real good linemen, a hard running back, skill outside, a defense that swarms the football. I really don't see a weakness."
North Allegheny, which hasn't allowed a touchdown in four games, is coming off an impressive 14-3 non-conference victory against Gateway, which entered the game ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA ... the type of low-scoring game Totten is hoping for this week.
The Tigers entered the game against Gateway averaging 43.2 points per game on offense, while the defense was limiting opponents to 5.4 points. But the North Allegheny offense, behind quarterback Mack Leftwich, kept it mainly on the ground to get past the Gators.
Leftwich, although one of the WPIAL's leading passers with 1,207 yards, rushed for 89 yards on 12 carries to help the Tigers remain undefeated.
"Mack did a great job. He's a quarterback and obviously he wants to throw," said North Allegheny coach Art Walker. "It's tough to argue with any quarterback who's going to tell you he wants to throw all the time. He's such a team guy he knew that was the formula to get us into the end zone and hopefully win the game. He was on board with that."
Central Catholic's key back also had a big game last week. Junior Luigi Lista-Brinza rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Vikings to a 28-8 victory against Pine-Richland. For the season, Lista-Brinza, who has struggled with a high ankle sprain, has rushed for 459 yards.
"They are fundamentally very sound," Walker said. "They do a great job of matching up with what you're doing formation-wise and personnel-wise. I don't expect anything less than their best game defensively. Terry Totten is a defensive guy, he'll have them ready to go."
North Allegheny and Central Catholic have met only once in the past 10 years. The Tigers knocked off the Vikings, 17-7, in the 2010 WPIAL semifinals en route to WPIAL and PIAA championships.
"We really don't have a lot of experience out there," Totten said. "We're not that kind of team this year. I'm not crying poor mouth, we're going to battle. It's just that everywhere I look I have newer guys and younger guys. But we're going to do our best."
Mount Pleasant has very little time to shake off a tough, 28-27, double-overtime loss to Jeannette in Class AA Interstate Conference play.
Jeannette quarterback Seth Miller threw a 10-yard scoring pass and kicked the extra point in the second overtime to put the Jayhawks on top. Mount Pleasant scored on its second overtime possession on a 10-yard Tylor Mellors run, but the conversion run failed to allow Jeannette (5-1, 5-1), ranked No. 5 by the Post-Gazette, to escape with the victory and hand the Vikings their first loss of the season.
The Vikings, however, must bounce back in a hurry as they take on third-ranked Washington (6-0, 6-0) in another key conference matchup Friday night. The kickoff at Vikings Stadium is 7 p.m.
Burrell's do-everything Cole Bush may be asked to do even more Friday night.
Quarterback James Liput took a big hit at the end of the first quarter Friday night against Freeport and left the Class AA Allegheny Conference showdown with concussion-like symptoms. Despite 130 yards rushing on 27 carries from Bush, one of the top running backs in the WPIAL, the Bucs (5-1, 4-1) were dealt their first loss, 26-7, and dropped a half game behind the Yellowjackets (5-1, 5-1) in the standings.
Liput's status for Friday night's game at Ford City is uncertain, placing more of the offensive burden on Bush, who has rushed for 1,178 yards this season on 143 carries and scored 20 touchdowns, and backup quarterback Cody Wolfe.