Dom Pieto leads Central Catholic to measuring-stick win over Bethel Park

Friday, September 20, 2019 | 10:54 PM

Even though it was a non-conference crossover game between 6A Central Catholic and 5A Bethel Park, both teams looked at the game as a measuring stick for the rest of the season.

If that’s the case, Central Catholic is yards ahead of Bethel Park as the Vikings defeated the Black Hawks, 45-14, Friday night at the Wolvarena.

The Vikings usually feature the run, but it was their passing game that got things going. With 7 minutes, 17 seconds left in the first quarter, Dom Pieto found sophomore Gannon Carothers for a 40-yard catch-and-run touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.

Even though the game had no impact on the standings, Pieto said the Vikings looked at the game as a chance to improve.

“It was a chance to get better and to keep working on things. It’s great, of course, to get the win, but we were also trying to keep building our momentum,” he said.

The Vikings opened-up a 14-0 lead in the second quarter in more typical Central Catholic fashion. Two plays after stopping Bethel Park on a fourth-and-2, junior tailback Eddie Tillman raced 41 yards for a score. After the Blackhawks punted on the ensuing possession, the Vikings struck one play later.

Pieto found Eric Benson in the middle of the field and the junior wideout did the rest, finding the end zone on a 53-yard connection and Central Catholic had built a 21-0 lead. Bethel Park had a chance at an interception on the play but bobbled the ball and then batted it up in the air before Benson secured it and ran into the end zone.

According to Pieto, he thought the pass would result in a turnover.

“Out of my hand, I knew the pass wasn’t my best ball because I floated it, but it’s one of those nights,” Pieto said. “Benson made a good play and got into the end zone.”

The senior quarterback threw for a season high 161 yards, connecting on 6 of 12 passes.

“We were just kind of feeling the longball tonight,” Pieto said. “We had an open one early and lost it. We came back strong after that.”

Just when it seemed the Black Hawks might be out of the game, senior Jehvonn Lewis ignited the team and their crowd, racing 78 yards for a touchdown two plays after the Vikings touchdown. The extra point made the score 21-7.

Central Catholic marched down the field late in the second half and Jonathan Opalko, who was a perfect 6-of-6 on extra points, connected on a 22-yard field goal to make the score 24-7 Vikings at halftime.

Lewis once again sparked the Black Hawks, ranked fifth in Class 5A, taking the second-half kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to bring Bethel Park within 10. Unfortunately for the Black Hawks, that would be the last time they would score.

Central Catholic answered and again it was Pieto throwing for a score, as he found Anderson Cynkar from 40 yards out and the Vikings led, 31-14.

The final two Central Catholic scores came via the ground. Dontre Jones barreled in from the 2-yard line late in the third quarter and Tillman added his second touchdown of the game with a beautiful cutback run from 36 yards with 9:55 left. Tillman finished the game with 16 carries and 148 yards to go with his two touchdowns.

Central Catholic’s defensive front, which features four future D1 college players, was dominant in the win for the Vikings. A.J. Beatty, Elliot Donald and the Allen twins, Ameer and Amaar, spearheaded a defense that held Bethel Park to 71 yards rushing and 102 total yards for the game. Central Catholic ended up with 406 yards of total offense and led the game in first downs, 13-4.

The running game and the defense are standards for Central Catholic, but tonight, Pieto enjoyed the spotlight.

“It’s a great feeling when you hear three touchdowns next to your name. It’s pretty awesome,” he said.

The loss was the first of the season for Bethel Park (3-1, 2-0), which returns to Allegheny 8 conference action next week when it faces Moon.

Central Catholic (4-1, 2-1), ranked third in Class 6A, has won two straight after a tough loss to North Allegheny. The Vikings return to conference play next week when they host Pine-Richland at Carnegie Mellon.

“We just have to stay strong and continue to work on our fundamentals,” Pieto said. “Tonight was big for us because we have a big conference game next week against Pine-Richland. If we play our game, we’re going to be tough to beat.”

Especially if Pieto throws the ball like he did Friday night.

Check out an archived broadcast of this game on the TribLive High School Sports Network.

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