Central Catholic keeps focus on State College with possible St. Joseph’s matchup looming

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Thursday, November 21, 2019 | 6:59 PM


Central Catholic could have a showdown with defending state champion St. Joseph’s Prep on the horizon, an East vs. West clash with the nationally ranked Philadelphia power.

But if so, that’s still two weeks away.

Nobody in Central Catholic’s locker room should be thinking that far ahead, coach Terry Totten said. Not when Central has a matchup this week with a State College team that doesn’t have much hype but does have an 11-1 record.

The Little Lions’ only loss was to District 3 champion Central Dauphin, a team that’s still alive on the other side of the PIAA bracket.

“They’re a very solid, well-coached football team,” Totten said. “Not real fancy but they’re going to come at you.”

WPIAL champion Central Catholic (11-1) hosts the District 6 champion at 7 p.m. Friday at North Allegheny in a PIAA Class 6A quarterfinal. The winner advances to face St. Joseph’s Prep (9-2) or Nazareth Prep (12-1) a week later in the state semifinals.

St. Joseph’s Prep, ranked No. 25 by USA Today, has a roster dotted with sons of NFL players. The Philadelphia Catholic League team beat Central Catholic in the 2013 and 2016 state championships.

“We haven’t talked about that (potential matchup),” Totten said. “We know we have a battle Friday night. We know we have a job to do to move on.”

Central Catholic’s defense shined a week ago in the WPIAL finals against a Pine-Richland offense that likes to throw the football. This week, the Vikings have a different challenge against a State College offense that likes to run.

The Little Lions average 247 rushing yards per week.

The team’s top rusher is junior Dresyn Green, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound junior. Green has rushed for 1,134 yards and 18 touchdowns on 175 carries, topping the 1,000-yard mark for the second year in a row. He’s reached the end zone in 10 of his team’s 12 games and has scored multiple touchdowns six times.

State College dual-threat quarterback Brady Dorner also will run. The senior has 439 yards and eight rushing touchdowns, and his wide receivers also get involved at times in the run game under sixth-year coach Matt Lintal.

“They want to establish the run,” Totten said. “We have to swell up and the point of attack and get some bodies in lanes. … They move the ball around with jet (sweeps) and the quarterback is a capable runner. They want to get you loaded up on the running back and the quarterback can crease you.”

Dorner has thrown for 1,704 yards and 14 touchdowns. His top targets are a pair of seniors with 33 receptions: Isaiah Edwards (645 yards, 8 TDs) and Lokey Howell (529, 3 TDs).

This is the sixth time since 2010 that State College has played the WPIAL champion in the state playoffs. The Little Lions are 0-6 in that span. That includes when Central Catholic defeated State College, 19-3, in the 2015 quarterfinals on the way to winning the state Class 4A title.

The Little Lions are coming off a 38-7 victory over District 2 champion Delaware Valley. Their defense had four first-half takeaways and blocked a punt to lead 38-0 at halftime.

Central Catholic won last week in a similar way.

The Vikings recovered four fumbles and intercepted a fourth-quarter pass in the red zone to defeat Pine-Richland, 10-7, in the WPIAL championship at Heinz Field. Central Catholic’s offense produced just one touchdown drive before Jonathan Opalko kicked a game-winning 40-yard field goal in the final minutes.

The Vikings had averaged 38.5 points in the eight games leading up to the championship, so the 10-point output was unexpected.

An interception by Chase Horne set up the winning kick.

“Obviously, our defense played extremely well,” Totten said. “I didn’t think we gave ourselves a chance offensively. Credit Pine, they had a good plan. But we made a lot of mistakes offensively.”

As the team transitions into the state playoffs, he’s hopeful that his team can keep focused — on this week, not next.

“You always have to worry about kids this age,” Totten said, “but I think they know what’s up.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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