Greensburg Central Catholic routs Leechburg, clinches Eastern Conference title

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Friday, October 28, 2022 | 10:40 PM


Greensburg Central Catholic was not in a sharing mood Friday night.

With the outright Eastern Conference title dangling like a carrot in front of them, the third-ranked Centurions made sure they took care of business with a 48-21 victory over No. 4 Leechburg in the conference finale.

Da’sjon Craggette ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, and Amari Mack added 112 yards on just three attempts with two scores to lead GCC (8-2, 6-0), which already had secured a share of the title.

“We’re not shy about our goals,” GCC coach Marko Thomas said. “Win the section and the WPIAL, and go to states. This is one of our goals.”

Leechburg (7-3, 4-2), which last won a conference in 1979 (AIC North), played without star running back Braylan Lovelace, a Pitt linebacker commit, who was “banged up from last week,” according to coach Randy Walters.

Tight end Jake Cummings also was out for the Blue Devils.

“We started out slow at first, but Da’sjon got us going and gave us a big momentum change,” GCC linebacker Ryan Kimmel said. “I was hoping to play against (Lovelace). He’s a great player. I think we would have won even if he had played.”

GCC could have split it three ways had undermanned Leechburg won to claim its first conference championship in 43 years.

Instead, the Centurions will be the top seed from the Eastern and get a home game — likely to be played at a nearby turf stadium — for the first round of the 16-team Class A playoffs.

“It’s a different game (without Lovelace),” Thomas said. “You miss someone like that, and you notice. If we play them again down the road, with him, it’s not going to be a 48-21 game.”

Leechburg and Clairton (5-5, 5-1), also in the postseason field, finished tied for second but will be the third seed from the conference.

The WPIAL will announce seedings and opening matchups at 2 p.m. Saturday on tribhssn.triblive.com.

Leechburg beat GCC, 31-27, last year on a late jump-pass from Lovelace to Logan Kline.

That gave them back-to-back wins for the first time in the series. GCC, though, has now beaten the Blue Devils 14 times in 17 meetings.

This time, GCC took a 35-9 lead into halftime.

“GCC’s quarterback does so much, so well out of the RPO. He is a dynamic player,” Walters said. “Watching him make reads is scary. They have so many guys around him, too.

“We needed to do a better job with our pass protection.”

Westmoreland County passing leader Tyree Turner threw for 124 yards and two scores, including a 64-yard strike to Nate Dlugos, who made a highlight catch. He tipped to himself, regained his balance and dragged a defender down the near sideline to the end zone to make it 21-9 with 10:11 to play in the second quarter.

Leechburg led 9-0 after an early safety and a 2-yard touchdown run by Jaydin Floyd.

After Craggette scored on a 64-yard burst, Jaydin Canady intercepted Floyd, and the Centurions quickly converted the turnover. Turner tossed a 35-yard scoring pass to Samir Crosby to put GCC ahead 14-9.

Canady ripped off a 35-yard run, but Tyler Foley stripped him for a fumble recovery.

But Leechburg punted, and Turner found Dlugos for their big-play hookup.

Kimmel disrupted the next Leechburg drive with a 12-yard sack, and Canady raced 31 yards for a touchdown to stretch it to 31-9.

Craggette added a short touchdown just before the half.

“Their guys were firing, and ours weren’t,” Walters said. “Our kids played hard. We’re building a program here.”

Lucas Gamble had a fumble recovery for Leechburg late in the third.

“Leechburg wasn’t backing down,” Thomas said.

A touchdown followed as Floyd threw a 16-yard strike to Kline. Kimmel, though, blocked the extra point, and it was 35-15.

Mack capped the scoring for GCC with a 35-yard touchdown run with about seven minutes to play.

“Something big happens every time we get the ball in Amari’s hands,” Thomas said. “His touchdown ratio is incredible.”

Shane Swope saw significant time in the GCC backfield in the second half. He ran for 56 yards on 12 carries.

Tim Andrasy followed a 44-yard pass play — Floyd to Foley — with a short TD run for Leechburg to make it 42-21.

Ben Talerico recovered a fumble for Leechburg and took a shot downfield, but Crosby intercepted Floyd. Mack followed with an 80-yard scoring run to give GCC a 48-21 lead with 5:42 to play.

Crosby has eight interceptions for the season.

Floyd ran for 30 yards and passed for 68. Andrasy ran for 33 yards.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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