Central Catholic turns the page after frustrating ’18 season

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Thursday, August 15, 2019 | 2:14 PM


Last season was a difficult one for Central Catholic, hampered at times by turnovers and other self-inflicted mistakes.

In a September matchup with Pine-Richland, the Vikings lost the football seven times to their rival, one of the low points in a season that they’re eager to put behind them. The Vikings later finished the season with consecutive losses to Mt. Lebanon and Seneca Valley, close scores that stuck with them.

“I just thought we let some things go,” coach Terry Totten said. “But I thought we had two good weeks of practice for those final two games that we lost. So somewhere it was lost between the practice field and the games.”

That led the coaching staff to re-evaluate their approach and make changes for this season.

“We’ve been out on the field a lot earlier,” Totten said. “These kids have worked hard, so the physical part of it should be there.”

Earlier, like April or May?

“No,” Totten said. “I’m talking about January.”

The players had entered last season with championship aspirations, so a first-round exit didn’t sit well with anyone. Even in the middle of winter, they were more than ready to start thinking about this season.

“We just wanted to get started,” Totten said, “and establish some continuity.”

Central Catholic went 7-4 last season and reached the WPIAL Class 6A first round. They return quite a bit from that roster, including leading rusher Eddy Tillman and leading passer Dom Pieto.

They also have a defensive line with four Division I recruits.

“We’ve got a chance to be good, but we certainly have holes,” Totten said. “We have some young talent, but they are young.”

The defensive line features twin brothers A’maar Allen (6-3, 250) and A’meer Allen (6-4, 280), North Carolina commit A.J. Beatty (6-5, 260) and Elliot Donald (6-2, 230), one of the top juniors in the state. The Allens and Beatty are seniors.

Donald is the nephew of NFL star Aaron Donald. He has more than a dozen FBS offers, including Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia, along with LSU, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Ohio State and others.

On offense, the Allens are tackles and Beatty is the tight end. The Vikings’ center, senior Thomas Hartnett, also has D1 offers.

“We’ve got some experience on the line and that’s probably what we’ll hang our hat on,” Totten said.

Running behind them will be Tillman, a junior who rushed for 826 yards and nine touchdowns last season despite missing five games. When on the field, he showed explosiveness.

In a matchup with Norwin, Tillman totaled 384 total yards on 31 touches and scored four times. His longest touchdowns were runs of 70 and 85 yards.

Joining him in the backfield will be senior Dontre Jones and sophomores Antonio Pitts and J.D. Younger, the brother of former Vikings standout J.J. Younger.

Central Catholic has traditionally been a good running offense, but the team also needs to establish a reliable passing game this season, Totten said.

They’ll need to replace the 40 receptions made by Gavin Thomson, who graduated. The top options are wideouts Sharod Lindsey, Matt Schmitt and Eric Benson. A pair of sophomores, Chase Barney and Gannon Carothers, also will contribute.

A year ago, injuries and ineffectiveness led the Vikings to use multiple quarterbacks. Combined, they threw more interceptions than touchdowns. But with Pieto now a senior, the Vikings won’t shy away from the air, Totten said.

“We want to take care of the football, we want to establish the run, but this kid can throw it,” Totten said. “We’ve got to take our shots. We feel confident in him.”

Schedule

Coach: Terry Totten

2018 record: 7-4, 5-3

All-time record: 540-317-44

Date, Opponent, Time

8.23, York William Penn+, 8

8.30, at Seneca Valley*, 7:30

9.6, North Allegheny*, 7:30

9.13, at Hempfield*, 7

9.20, Bethel Park+, 7

9.27, Pine-Richland*^, 7:30

10.4, at Norwin*, 7

10.11, at Butler*, 7:30

10.18, Canon-McMillan*%, 7:30

10.25, at Mt. Lebanon*, 7:30

*Class 6A Conference game

+At Wolvarena

^At Carnegie Mellon

%At Shaler

Statistical leaders

Passing: Dom Pieto

41-95, 613 yards, 8 TDs

Receiving: Gavin Thomson*

40-549 yards, 6 TDs

Rushing: Eddy Tillman

125-826 yards, 9 TDs

*Graduated

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

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