Big plays help Greensburg Central Catholic top West Greene, end playoff drought

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Friday, November 3, 2023 | 11:13 PM


Establishing a running game, hitting some long scoring plays and sending a message early on defense, Greensburg Central Catholic erased a nuisance of a playoff drought.

Speaking of nuisances, West Greene played that part well in the WPIAL Class A first round.

No. 8 seed GCC took a big lead and then held off No. 9 West Greene, 41-22, for its first playoff victory since 2011 on Friday night at Plum.

Tyree Turner completed 7 of 11 passes for a career-high 247 yards and three touchdowns, and Samir Crosby caught four receptions for 131 yards and had three scores to lead the big-play Centurions (8-3), who move on to play No. 1 South Side Beaver (11-0) in the quarterfinals.

“I am happy for these guys and proud of this group,” GCC coach JT Thompson said. “They deserve it.”

Turner added 85 yards rushing and another score, and Crosby ran for 46 and a touchdown.

GCC had lost seven straight playoff openers.

“There were a lot of people who counted us out this year,” Turner said. “We just put our heads down and put in the work. This feels great.”

West Greene (8-3) and 1,000-yard running back Billy Whitlatch kept coming at GCC with its power running game.

Whitlatch ran for 177 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries, and he returned a kickoff 98 yards for a dazzling touchdown with five minutes to go.

“(Turner and Crosby) are fantastic,” West Greene coach Beau Jackson said. “They are so damn explosive. Kudos to them.

“Our guys don’t quit. People ask me how we’re going to do on Friday nights. I tell them I can’t guarantee a win, but I can guarantee we’re going to give it all we have.”

GCC’s defense was led by Pete Mazowiecki, Aidan Allison and others, who held back the Pioneers, who played without 1,000-yard rusher Colin Brady.

“Pete is an unsung hero for us,” Thompson said. He’s an under-the-radar guy. He’s a hard-nosed middle linebacker who never played linebacker before.”

The Centurions gave the Pioneers a steady dose of Crosby on their opening drive.

Crosby carried eight times and scored on a 9-yard touchdown.

GCC missed the extra point, but it didn’t matter because more scoring was to come.

To that defensive message: The Centurions stopped the Pioneers late in the opening quarter at the 2-yard line.

Joe Kudla and Jackson McMullen sideswiped Whitlach wide and stuffed him on fourth-and-2.

Turner hit Allison, who shed a tackle and went 79 yards for a score before Landon Honick added a short scoring run for a 20-0 lead.

Allison added a key sack later in the half.

It was 27-0 early in the third after Turner found Crosby for a 52-yard strike.

“We wanted the ball in our best player’s hands,” Thompson said of Crosby.

Whitlatch cut it to 27-8 on a short TD and two-point run, then GCC was backed up against its goal lone for a safety following a holding call.

Turner recovered a fumble on the previous drive.

Whitlatch scored on a 10-yard run to make it 27-16 with 8 minutes and 37 seconds to play, but Mazowiecki recovered the Pioneers’ attempt at an onside kick.

“I was 6 when we watched (GCC) play (West Greene) in the playoffs (eight years ago),” Mazowiecki said. “We read our keys well tonight. When we put it all together on defense, we’re unstoppable.”

Some breathing room followed.

Turner then hooked up with Crosby for a 60-yard score, before Turner added a 26-yard TD to make it 41-16.

Crosby, Thompson said, had a charley horse in his leg so they stopped using him at running back.

“Offensively, I thought we were solid,” Thompson said. “Our defense did a lot of good things, but we have to be more consistent. We didn’t make adjustments.

“Greene County kids are tough, and we knew they wouldn’t go away.”

West Greene was late arriving to the game, forcing kickoff ahead 10 minutes. It ran out of time as its offense began to click.

The ensuing kick came to Seth Burns for the Pioneers, who lateraled to Whitlatch and watched his teammate race 96 yards down the near sideline before a cutback for the final touchdown.

Lane Allison, the Pioneers’ quarterback, threw a 50-yard pass to Cooper Chambers, but their final drive ended with a fumble recovery by Allison.

“They’re tough,” Turner said of West Greene. “It was the same when we played them last time. I give them great respect for that.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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