Central Catholic jumps on Baldwin quickly, cruises to 6A win

Saturday, October 23, 2021 | 5:35 PM

It took longer for Central Catholic to salute its 22 seniors before the game than it did for the Vikings to strike on their first three drives.

The Vikings produced 21 first-quarter points on scoring drives of two, four and four plays as they cruised to a 49-21 victory over Baldwin on Saturday afternoon.

The win secures second place in Class 6A and a “home game” for Central Catholic in the 6A semifinals in three weeks. The Vikings played Saturday’s game at Cupples Stadium.

One Vikings senior who started quickly on Saturday was Gannon Carothers.

After making two big defensive plays to stop Baldwin on its first drive, his second carry went for a 35-yard touchdown run.

On the Vikings’ second drive, sophomore quarterback Payton Wehner hit Carothers on a swing pass that became a 5-yard touchdown.

“He’s tough to bring down,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. “Nobody realizes, but he’s a 200-pound kid, an explosive kid.”

With only 21 seconds left in the first quarter, Wehner hit senior Brandon Jackson on another scoring pass, this from 10 yards out.

“He’s doing what we’re asking him. He’s taking care of the football, distributing the ball where he needs to,” Totten said of his young quarterback. “So I think his progress has been pretty good.”

On its next possession, Central Catholic was stopped on three plays near midfield as the Vikings punting unit hit the field for the first time.

Instead, Central Catholic turned to some trickery to produce its next touchdown.

The punt snap went to the up man, who handed the ball off to senior Devin Barren, who was able to turn the left corner and use a burst of speed to go 45 yards for a touchdown.

“We have a couple (fake punts) in our packages every week, and that was one of the ones we called right there,” Totten said.

The Vikings’ speed at the running back position was on display on their next two touchdowns as seniors Antonio Pitts and J.D. Younger broke through with long touchdown runs, both galloping 54 yards to paydirt.

“They’re talented backs,” Totten said. “Unfortunately, they’re all seniors. All three of them (Carothers, Pitts and Younger) can go.”

Up 42-0 at the half, the second half was played with a running clock.

However, Baldwin showed no quit as it scored three touchdowns, including a touchdown run and a scoring pass by sophomore quarterback John Kozar.

Another Highlanders sophomore, Andrew Sharp, rushed for 115 yards and scored a touchdown.

Baldwin slips to 2-4 in 6A, 2-7 overall. The Highlanders are still alive for a playoff spot but would need to upset Mt. Lebanon next week to have a chance. They could also clinch with a loss, a Canon-McMillan loss by 10 or more points to Central Catholic and a Norwin win over Hempfield. However, the loss to Mt. Lebanon would have to be by seven points or fewer.

Central Catholic (5-1, 7-2) has clinched second place, but Totten isn’t thrilled with the way his team is playing heading into the postseason.

“I’m not sold on a couple of things right now,” he said. “I’d like to tell you that we are gunning to get back into the championship game, but we have work to do.”

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