Rather matter of factly, Derry football coach Tim Sweeney said Central Valley’s greatest strength is the fact that it doesn’t have a weakness.
He called the challenge of facing the top-seeded Warriors a “monumental task.”
It was, in every sense.
Top-seeded Central Valley piled up the yardage, and the big plays, and mercy-ruled the Trojans, 42-7, in the WPIAL Class 3A semifinals Friday night at North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium.
The Warriors advance to the championship to play No. 2 Aliquippa (11-1) at 2 p.m. next Saturday at Heinz Field.
Central Valley (11-1) will play for a title for the first time since 2015. The Warriors, the product of a merger of Center and Monaca, won WPIAL titles in 2010 and 2014.
The Warriors displayed offensive depth as numerous ball carriers had an impact on the victory and a swarming defense made injury plagued Derry look punchless.
“That is our formula,” Central Valley coach Mark Lyons said. “We don’t showcase one guy. I don’t believe in that. Guys want to be a part of our system and have a hand in our offense. They have fun and get excited when they see a teammate do something good.”
No. 4 Derry (9-3) was seeking its second straight trip to the finals, but the Trojans could not muster offense from the start and saw two key starters go down with injuries in the first half.
One was star running back Justin Huss.
“Even with Huss, we didn’t do much,” Sweeney said. “They did everything well, and we didn’t make plays.”
Derry did not register a first down in the first half as it fell behind, 42-0.
Huss, a 2,000-yard rusher, appeared to injure his leg late in the second quarter, and he did not return. He finished with 17 yards on seven carries and ends the season with 2,020 yards. He ran for 1,009 yards in his previous four games.
Senior lineman Max Malis left on crutches as he went to the locker room at the half. He also did not come back.
Stephon Hall scored three rushing touchdowns (2, 4 and 4 yards) and quarterback Ameer Dudley threw for 245 yards and a touchdown and also ran for two scores — all in the first half. Dudley topped the 1,500-yard passing mark for the season and now has 20 TD passes.
He threw an 80-yard bomb to Jawon Hall, who pulled in two deep passes and had 134 receiving yards. The Warriors had two touchdowns negated by penalties.
Derry was limited to 135 total yards. Central Valley held powerhouse Aliquippa to 147 yards rushing when it stunned the Quips, 45-6, in the final week of the regular season.
Lyons said his offense gets a lot of the praise, but his defense can also make teams uncomfortable.
“We run to the football,” he said. “Our guys know their assignments and they have a lot of speed too.”
“It wasn’t just about their team speed,” Sweeney said. “It’s on me. We didn’t do enough tonight.”
Kick returner Zack Revoir also suffered an injury for Derry, as he returned the opening kickoff of the second half. He was taken out of the stadium on a stretcher.
Sweeney did not have an immediate update on the extent of the injuries.
Derry finally lit up its side of the scoreboard when junior Pryce Donovan scored on a 41-yard run with just more than five minutes to play. He had a team-high 59 yards rushing on six carries.
Sweeney called a timeout with 16 seconds left and marched out his seniors to the near hashmarks and they applauded the crowd. Some players inched out on crutches.
The coach did the same thing last year in the closing seconds of the title game at Heinz Field.
“These seniors have had a great run here, a great four years,” Sweeney said. “We wanted to salute them. They have a lot to take away from this program.”
Central Valley rolled up 524 yards, including 279 rushing. Jaylen Guy ran for 78 yards on 19 carries. Backup Landon Alexander added 60 in the second half. Jayvin Thompson had an interception for the Warriors.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .