Central Catholic Has Bid For Perfection Come Up Short in PIAA AAAA Championship

Monday, December 16, 2013 | 2:22 AM

The St. Joseph’s Prep Hawks (12-3) made it two for two for the Philadelphia Catholic League, using a dominating second half to push the Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings (15-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 35-10 victory Sunday night at Hersheypark Stadium.

The Vikings led 10-7 at the half, but lost starting quarterback and Florida State recruit JJ Cosentino to a left ankle injury in the third quarter. Senior quarterback Chris Martin led the Hawks back from the halftime deficit, throwing for 192 yards and three touchdowns against a Central Catholic defense that had only surrendered 85 points and pitched seven shutouts coming into the championship tilt.

It was the Vikings second loss in five trips to the PIAA finals, winning in 1988, 2004 and 2007, while losing the title game in 2003. St. Joseph’s Prep wins their first state title and made the Philadelphia Catholic League a double winner with Archbishop Wood claiming the Class AAA Championship Friday night. The Hawks defeated Archbishop Wood, their former league rivals, 31-21 in October.

Pittsburgh Central Catholic had a great chance to score on their second drive after John Petrishen picked off Martin and returned the interception to the Hawks 34 yard line, but Cosentino was sacked on third down and could not connect with Shaffer Swann on 4th-and-6, giving the ball over on downs.

The teams exchanged scores in the final four minutes of the quarter. The Hawks went 70 yards for the opening score as Vince Moffett took a 26-yard pass from Martin for a touchdown. Central Catholic scored just over two minutes later on a Cosentino quarterback sneak, finishing a drive that was helped by a face mask penalty on the Hawks. The Vikings added a second quarter field goal from Mitchell MacZura. The 29-yard kick gave Central Catholic a 10-7 halftime lead.

Central Catholic got the ball to start the third quarter but could gain only five yards before punting. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Martin hit junior John Reid for a 59-yard touchdown, putting St. Joseph's Prep up 14-10. The Hawks would never look back.

On Central's next drive, it appeared that the Vikings dodged a bullet after another quick three-and-out. Cosentino’s 4th down punt was deflected and picked up by a convoy of Hawks headed for the end zone, but the ball was punched out and flew into the end zone, where Petrishen fell on it for a touchback, gaining a fresh set of downs for Central Catholic.

However, the next possession changed the game. On the third play of the drive, Cosentino scrambled for a big gain. But there were two things wrong with the play: Cosentino did not get up due to an ankle injury and the Vikings were called for holding, negating the play. The senior could not place any weight on the ankle and did not return. Graham Adomitis came on but could not pick up a first down to extend the drive. The Vikings defense then forced another turnover as Martin was intercepted on a diving catch by Tre Tarpley at his own 41. The offense looked out of sync with the backup in the game and again could not move the chains.

Riley Redman took over the punting duties with Cosentino out and booted a 51-yard kick, but it rolled into the end zone, giving the Hawks the ball at their own 20. Misfortune hit the Vikings once again as Martin could not connect with De’Andre Swift on third down at the 39 yard line, but Nikko Thorpe was called for a late hit on Swift, keeping the drive alive. Martin connected with Olamide Zaccheaus on a 25-yard pass on the final play of the third quarter. He then hit Joe DuMond on a well-designed screen for a 14-yard touchdown  just nine seconds into the fourth quarter.

Trailing 21-10, the Vikings were able to mount a drive to the 38 yard line, but Adomitis was sacked by Reid on fourth down to end the threat. The Hawks then turned to the ground for two more scores. Swift found the end zone on a 35-yard run and Moffett closed the score sheet with a 16-yard scamper.

The Hawks racked up 317 yards of offense, including 76 yards rushing in the fourth quarter alone. Swift led with 68 yards on seven carries. Reid was the leading receiver with four catches for 83 yards. Three time all Catholic League linebacker Ryan McNulty had seven solo stops for the Hawks, while Jon Daniel Runyon, son of former Eagles All-Pro Jon Runyan, had two sacks. The District 12 champions finish the season 12-3, coming off a 6-3 regular season in the Philadelphia Catholic League, which was ranked as the sixth toughest conference in the country by a national publication.

Luigi Lista-Brinza was the leading rusher for the Vikings,  carrying 22 times for 129 yards. Redman added nine carries for 62 yards. Cosentino was 1-of-4 for seven yards, Adomitis went 2-for-5 for 42 yards. Cullen Buckley led the Central Catholic defense with nine stops, while Angelo Natter had three tackles for loss. Central Catholic, who were ranked as high as ninth in the Nation, finish 15-1 on the season. 

Scoring Summary:
St. Joseph’s Prep Hawks   7 – 0 – 7 – 21 = 35
Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings   7 – 3 – 0 – 0 = 10

First Quarter:
SJ: Vince Moffett 26 pass from Chris Martin (Pat Walsh kick)   3:24
PCC:  JJ Cosentino 1 run (Mitchell MacZura kick)  1:06

Second Quarter:
PCC:  MacZura 29 FG  4:59

Third Quarter:
SJ:  John Reid 59 pass from Martin (Walsh kick)  9:59

Fourth Quarter:
SJ:  Joe DeMond 14 pass from Martin  (Walsh kick)  11:51
SJ:  De’Andre Swift 35 run (Walsh kick)   5:59
SJ:  Moffett 16 run (Walsh kick)  4:35

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