Central Catholic defense dominates in victory over Seneca Valley

Friday, October 1, 2021 | 11:26 PM

There is a litany of players with NCAA Division I offers on the Central Catholic defense, and those players showed why they are going to play at that level Friday night.

The Vikings forced four turnovers in the first quarter that led to four touchdowns in a 35-0 rout of Seneca Valley in a Class 6A game at Carnegie Mellon’s Gesling Stadium.

“Our guys were very aggressive with the strips, and we’re flying around out there on defense,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. “They were excellent tonight. They got us on a couple plays, but we never broke.”

Central Catholic (5-1, 3-0) twice scored on one play after a Seneca Valley (4-2, 2-1) turnover. The first time came following the first turnover of the game when Central Catholic quarterback Payton Wehner found a wide open Vernon Settles for a 38-yard touchdown.

Then, following an interception, Wehner hit Josh Altsman on a 38-yard strike to make it 21-0.

Gannon Carothers scored on a 10-yard run sandwiched between the two one-play drives.

“Our offense was opportunistic on those turnovers,” Totten said. “We got a couple scores early, which is important in a game like this.”

After setting up several scores, the Vikings defense capped the first quarter by scoring a touchdown. Robert Fulton IV stripped Seneca Valley quarterback Graham Hancox, picked the ball up and ran 70 yards to the end zone, which made it 28-0.

“That was about as bad a first quarter in terms of the way things went as I’ve been around in a long time,” Seneca Valley coach Ron Butschle said. “We had four turnovers and gave them a short field another time because of bad special teams. Listen, they’re a good team, but we gave them some short fields and opportunities.”

Neither team scored again until Central Catholic’s defense set up the offense in prime scoring position one last time midway through the fourth quarter. Devin Barren picked off Hancox near midfield and returned it inside the 10-yard line. Three plays later, Antonio Pitts scored on a 4-yard run, and Matthew Schearer’s extra point put the game into the mercy rule with six minutes remaining.

“Our defense the rest of the night after that first quarter until the last turnover, put up a doughnut” Butschle said. “They didn’t drive down the field or manhandle us after the first quarter. Not to take anything away from Central Catholic. They’re a really good team. But I don’t think that was an indication of who we are. I take full responsibility. We have to clean up the turnovers, penalties and poor execution in general.”

Wehner was 9 of 15 passing for 141 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and the majority of that was in the first half. He attempted just three passes after halftime. Brandon Jackson caught seven passes for 60 yards. Hancox finished 19 of 36 for 266 yards and two interceptions. Brandon Ross had six receptions for 102 yards.

Notre Dame recruit Devin Hinish had five sacks for a Vikings defense that swarmed Hancox all night. Matt Aulicino, Fulton IV, and JD Younger also were in on sacks.

Central Catholic travels to Mt. Lebanon next Friday for what is shaping up to be a battle for the top spot in the regular season in Class 6A.

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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