Greensburg Central Catholic hopes to stop top-ranked Jeannette in Eastern Conference clash

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019 | 12:01 AM


Do you know Greensburg Central Catholic is quietly having an excellent season under first-year coach Bret Colbert?

Yep, the Centurions (6-1, 4-1) are right behind No. 1 Jeannette (7-0, 3-0) and No. 2 Clairton (5-2, 4-0) in the Eastern Conference standings, and they host the Jayhawks at 7 p.m. Friday.

This is a big game for both teams, and not only because they are they rivals. A second loss in the conference could cost a team a spot in the WPIAL playoffs. Just ask Laurel, which missed the 2018 playoffs with two conference losses.

The WPIAL takes the top two finishers from each of the three Class A conferences and then selects two other teams via the wild-card system.

Many times since 2002, the Jeannette and Greensburg Central Catholic game determined either conference titles or playoff seeding. This game will, too.

The games have been heated and intense. It’s a game where the players from both teams demand respect.

Jeannette leads the series 19-8-1 and has won the past five meetings, but a few times during the mid-2000s, the games were moved to Hempfield to accommodate the large crowds.

Friday’s game won’t be moved to a different venue, but it could determine the conference title. Greensburg Central Catholic’s only loss this season was a 21-14 defeat to Clairton.

“I said before the season began that we felt we had the speed to keep up with Clairton, Imani Christian and Jeannette,” Colbert said. “We’re playing well, so we have to contain their speed with our speed.

“We have to contain their rush. They rush the quarterback hard, and they get into the backfield a lot. They are great getting off the ball. You can tell they are a playoff team based on the way they play.”

Colbert was an assistant at GCC last year and replaced Aaron Smetanka, who is the coach at Saint Vincent. The Centurions haven’t made the WPIAL playoffs since 2015.

Greensburg Central Catholic is averaging 32.9 points per game and allows 18.1.

Quarterback David Altimore, who missed the Leechburg game, has completed 48 of 80 passes for 619 yards and nine touchdowns. His main targets are Ben LaCarte (18 catches for 246 yards) and Brandon Brown (14 catches for 229 yards).

“David has played well, and we said we don’t have a ton of playmakers around him, so we have to distribute,” Colbert said. “We have a great line up front that can create the holes and protect the quarterback.

“We’ve done everything we thought we could do. We’re starting to come together, and we’re starting to have fun.”

Zach Kuvinka is the leading rusher with 276 yards.

“They’ve been playing good football,” Jeannette coach Roy Hall said. “They had Clairton on the ropes earlier this season and ran out of time. I’m sure they’re confident coming into the game.”

Jeannette is coming off an impressive 42-13 victory against No. 5 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. The Jayhawks also defeated Class 2A teams Brownsville and East Allegheny.

“This is a good group of players,” Hall said. “They were embarrassed how we played in the WPIAL semifinals when we couldn’t run the ball. We’ve emphasized running the ball this year.”

Imani Sanders is the Jayhawks’ leading rusher with 616 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Quarterback James Sanders has completed 64 of 102 passes for 1,064 yards and 15 touchdowns. His main targets are Toby Cline (16 catches, 281 yards), Brett Birch (14-125) and Jackson Pruitt (11-179).

“We played really well against OLSH,” Hall said. “The offensive line played extremely well. They’re starting to jell. I’m not worried about the short week because we played on Saturday. We’ll be ready for GCC.”

Jeannette averages 43.3 points per game, and the defense is allowing only 4.4. The Jayhawks had their shutout streak end at 20 quarters after OLSH scored in the second quarter.

Seniors Justin Kramer and Zach Crutchman anchor the line for the Jayhawks. They’re facing a sold unit from GCC led by junior nose guard A.J. Johnston and tackles senior Isaac Kuhns and sophomore Cole Spivak.

“They play hard, and they know how to play,” Colbert said. “We have to match or exceed their level of play.”

And that points to another possible great showdown between the two neighboring rivals.

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

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