Central Valley claims WPIAL title with yet another dominant performance

Friday, November 13, 2020 | 9:22 PM

Call it a mercy mission.

Central Valley celebrated its 10th consecutive “mercy rule” victory Friday night, an incredible season-long streak that now includes a 35-0 win over Elizabeth Forward in the WPIAL Class 3A championship at North Allegheny.

The WPIAL title was the second in a row and fourth overall for No. 1 seed Central Valley (10-0), a program that’s been around only 11 years. Warriors junior Landon Alexander rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns, and junior lineman Sean FitzSimmons dismantled EF’s offense with six tackles for a loss.

“They’re quick games,” FitzSimmons said. “Move on to the next one.”

Under the mercy rule, the clock runs continuously once a team takes a 35-point lead in the second half. CV’s wins this season have been by 49, 43, 28, 50, 51, 35, 51, 49, 49 and 35 points. The Warriors allowed a late touchdown in their 28-point win.

In 2016, Steel Valley became the first team to win every game by the mercy rule after the PIAA adopted the rule in 1998. Central Valley might be on pace to match that feat. The Warriors face District 5 champion Bedford (9-0) in the PIAA semifinals, Nov. 20-21.

“They’re the king of the mountain in Triple-A,” EF coach Mike Collodi said. “This is their sixth appearance in the (WPIAL) title game in 11 years. Now we know what we need to do to get there.”

The WPIAL finals appearance was the first for No. 3 Elizabeth Forward (8-1).

Central Valley forced the mercy rule with 8 minutes left in Friday’s third quarter. A 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Ameer Dudley gave the Warriors a 35-0 lead. But mercy rule wins aren’t their primary focus, Dudley said, insisting this team only wants titles.

One down. One to go.

“I’m just happy to go back to back,” Dudley said. “If I’ve got to play four quarters, so be it. If I’ve got to play three? It’s whatever. I’m just happy I’ve got two rings. Now I’ve got to go get a state one.”

Elizabeth Forward entered with one of the WPIAL’s top defenses and it showed early. Central Valley punted only twice all season, but was forced to punt on two of its three possessions in Friday’s first quarter.

Yet Elizabeth Forward’s offense never got traction. It was held to 52 yards from scrimmage in the first half with 43 on one pass play. EF running back Nico Mrvous had seven yards on eight carries in the first half.

EF’s first possession ended with a strip-sack by FitzSimmons, who couldn’t be blocked. The 6-foot-3, 277-pound two-way lineman has Pitt among his Division I offers.

“We wanted to double team him and basically run away from him,” Collodi said. “But when you run away, he still makes tackles in the backfield.”

One play after the turnover, Central Valley’s Stephon Hall scored on a 13-yard touchdown run to lead 7-0.

CV’s led reached 28-0 before halftime as Alexander scored on three consecutive second-quarter drives. He rushed for 172 yards on 12 first-half carries and scored on runs of 10, 41 and 31 yards.

Alexander praised his linemen.

“They killed it today,” Alexander said. “They absolutely crushed it. The holes were wide. I could be patient back there. All credit to them.”

But with the season coming to a close in the next two weeks — one way or another — seeing the clock run continuously can be a little bittersweet.

“I’d rather that clock take 10 hours,” Alexander said. “I’ve got some best friends that are seniors. I want to spend every minute with them because you never know. This could be the last time playing with my best friends.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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