Gannon Carothers’ versatility helps No. 2 Central Catholic defeat No. 3 Seneca Valley

Friday, October 2, 2020 | 11:13 PM

Gannon Carothers’ coaches say the junior plays five positions for Central Catholic, a versatility that seemed invaluable Friday night.

With three running backs injured, second-ranked Central Catholic turned the backfield over to Carothers, who rushed for 171 yards and scored twice in a 33-7 victory over No. 3 Seneca Valley in WPIAL Class 6A. Typically used as a slot receiver, Carothers handled 22 carries for the Vikings, who played without senior tailback Eddy Tillman.

It was the most carries he’d had since freshman football.

Carothers took one carry 70 yards for a touchdown, and returned an interception 56 yards for another score and a 17-0 lead. He started only on defense as a sophomore for the WPIAL champions and wasn’t a big part of the offense until now.

“He’s been in a lot of big games for us, so we have no problem handing him the ball,” defensive coordinator Dave Fleming said.

With Tillman out and would-be backup Antonio Pitts also unavailable, Carothers was expected to share carries with teammate J.D. Younger, who got the start Friday at tailback. When Younger left the game hurt, Carothers became the team’s featured back.

The Vikings completed only eight passes, so Carothers was kept busy.

“I’m always hoping for a game like this,” he said. “I was trying to do my best. I haven’t really gotten any opportunity on offense this year. I was trying to show what I can do.”

The victory was a bounce-back effort for Central Catholic (3-1) after last week’s lackluster loss to rival North Allegheny. The Vikings shut out Seneca Valley (2-1) until late in the fourth quarter.

They led 10-0 at half and 24-0 after three.

“This week, we came together,” Carothers said. “Last week were were separate. We just weren’t on our game. This week we came back and realized what we can do as a team.”

Central’s defense and special teams scored 21 points.

Along with Carothers’ pick-six interception, senior Kairos Beasley sacked Seneca Valley’s quarterback in the end zone for a safety. Vikings kicker Matthew Schearer contributed a 37-yard field goal and four extra points, and Robinson Waddell returned a free kick 60 yards for Central Catholic’s final touchdown.

That relieved pressure from an offense in flux. The Vikings switched quarterbacks this week and started senior Adam Obrin. He completed 8 of 18 passes for 57 yards and connected with wideout Eric Benson for a 23-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.

Seneca Valley intercepted Obrin twice.

Central Catholic ran the football 40 times, even without Tillman, who’s recovering from taking a helmet to the leg. But he wasn’t the only playmaker hurting Friday night.

Seneca Valley running back Ethan West tried to fight through an existing leg injury but was limited to one carry, one catch and one yard from scrimmage combined. The offense lacked a big-play threat without its best weapon.

In the first three quarters, the Raiders’ longest gain was an 8-yard catch.

Raiders quarterback Dustin Horn completed 8 of 20 attempts for 31 passing yards. He was intercepted once, lost a fumble and was sacked five times. Running back Nolan Dworek was held to 10 yards on 12 carries and added 10 yards on two catches.

Seneca Valley didn’t score until after the team pulled its starters. Backup quarterback Brian Olan threw a 32-yard touchdown to Brady Skalos in the final minute.

“It’s hard not to be frustrated,” Seneca Valley coach Ron Butschle said, “but like every week whether we win or lose, we’ve got to chew on it for 24 or 48 hours. We’ll come back Monday and we start it over. I hope that tonight is not who we are. But it was who we are tonight.”

Central Catholic took a 3-0 lead on Schearer’s field goal late in the first quarter. That lead grew to 10-0 early in the second when Carothers intercepted Horn near midfield and darted 56 yards to the end zone.

“I was just playing deep zone and read the quarterback’s eyes,” Carothers said. “He threw it up, and I just went up and got it.”

The lead remained 10-0 midway through the third until Carothers sparked another big-play touchdown. He took a handoff and sprinted 70 yards along the sideline.

“It was great blocking,” he said.

Central Catholic scored again on the last play of the third quarter when Obrin found Benson in the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown. In the fourth, Beasley’s safety and Waddell’s kick-return touchdown increased the Vikings’ lead to 33-0.

“Last week, we felt like we didn’t play Central Catholic football,” Fleming said. “We got back to doing what we normally do.”

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

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