Greensburg Central Catholic rolls past Southmoreland in playoff tuneup

Friday, October 25, 2019 | 11:30 PM

For one half, it was a defensive struggle Friday night at Greensburg Central Catholic.

After halftime, it was nearly all Centurions on both sides of the ball.

David Altimore passed for 224 yards and three touchdowns to lead GCC to a 34-14 victory over Southmoreland in a WPIAL playoffs tuneup for both schools.

GCC appeared to benefit the most, scoring 31 second-half points after trailing 7-3 at the break. The Centurions will enter the Class A playoffs next week under first-year coach Bret Colbert after failing to make the field a year ago with an identical 7-3 record.

“We identified where we had some mismatches and took advantage of them,” Colbert said. “We started taking care of their line a little bit. All around, it just started happening.”

It was a bittersweet ending to the regular season for Southmoreland (5-5). The Scotties, despite losing their final five games after a 5-0 start, return to the playoffs following a 39-year absence.

“I’ve been around winning programs all my life,” Southmoreland coach Dave Keefer said. “I said last year when I took over that I wanted to change the culture, and we’re doing it. It’s getting better, but we’ve got to learn to build on it. We’re trying to build a tradition.”

Southmoreland is headed to the playoffs next week as part of the Class 2A field.

Altimore, a senior in his first year as starting quarterback, completed 14 of 21 attempts with one interception. He threw touchdown passes of 20 yards to Ben LaCarte, 67 yards to Luke Mazowiecki and 37 yards to Brandon Brown, the latter giving GCC a 27-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.

The score came after Southmoreland closed within a touchdown in the third on an 80-yard option pass from running back Anthony Govern to Brandon Peterson.

The big play didn’t appear to bother GCC’s players.

“I told them before the game, ‘It’s meaningless,’ but they wanted to win,” Colbert said. “We knew in the grand scheme, it was meaningless. The win wasn’t meaningless — 7-3 looks better than 6-3 or 6-4 — but I’m glad to see so much determination from these guys.”

Southmoreland led 7-0 early on Colt Harper’s 5-yard touchdown run. GCC cut the lead to 7-3 on Nate Ward’s 22-yard field goal in the second.

After the low-scoring first half, GCC erupted in the second half, outscoring Southmoreland, 31-7.

“This is the fifth week in a row,” Keefer said. “That’s what I was telling the kids here afterwards. I thought we played well last week (in a 44-16 loss to top-ranked Washington). We had a lot of unforced turnovers, but we actually physically smacked them, and I haven’t seen anybody do that to Washington this year.

“I thought we could build off that, but we couldn’t get a first down when we needed it. Give GCC credit. They came out and stopped us, but to some extent, we stopped ourselves, too. We had a bunch of dropped passes, and we don’t usually get that.”

Altimore’s first TD pass to LaCarte put GCC in front 10-7, a lead they did not relinquish.

Ward also kicked a 28-yard field goal in the third and Mazowiecki, who had 101 receiving yards, added a 2-yard touchdown run late in the fourth for GCC, which was coming off an 8-0 loss to Cornell.

Ending the season with a victory erases the thought of that underwhelming loss a week ago.

“We’ve got good genetics here,” Colbert said. “We’re pretty good because we’ve got some really good players. We’ve said throughout the season we’ve got 11 guys on both sides of the ball who are going to play in college, and that’s rare anywhere you go.”

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