Mourning Greensburg Central Catholic loses 1st-round game to OLSH

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Friday, November 5, 2021 | 11:17 PM


Shaken by a double dose of tragedy, Greensburg Central Catholic took the field on its first series Friday night with only five players, all of them linemen.

The Centurions were flagged for a delay of game, but Our Lady of the Sacred Heart declined it.

The moment was subtle yet such a statement for GCC’s players and staff — a nod to their two assistant coaches who died this week.

Joe Oslosky and B.J. Farrell were line coaches for the Centurions, who opted to play their WPIAL Class A first-round playoff game at Hempfield as a tribute to their fallen comrades.

No. 9 seed OLSH defeated No. 8 GCC, 28-8, at Spartan Stadium, but the result didn’t seem all that relevant on a night touched by pain, perspective and prayer.

Oslosky, 44, died Thursday in a vehicle accident. He was on his way to Farrell’s funeral in Connellsville when he crashed along College Avenue in Hempfield Township.

Farrell, 41, died Oct. 31 at his home of an undisclosed cause.

The team learned of Oslosky’s death hours after Farrell’s service, during a practice.

“Joe and B.J. were a big part of what we did,” GCC coach Marko Thomas said, pausing to hold in a cry. “We just wanted to do something just to show them one more time we love them.”

Thomas asked his players, who had very limited practice time this week, if they wanted to play Friday.

“We all thought if they were here with us, they would want us to play,” junior Nate Dlugos said. “Even though they’re not with us physically, I know they’re up watching, and hopefully they’re proud of us.”

GCC also played shorthanded as five players sat out due to PIAA transfer rules.

GCC’s first points came on a safety in the third quarter. A “2” on the scoreboard was eerily noticeable.

“These kids have been through an absolute nightmare situation, and they played their hearts out,” Thomas said. “For as little practice time as we had this week. How many tears were shed. The roller-coaster of emotions. You couldn’t ask for any more. They left everything on the field today. I commend them for showing up in the first place.”

After a scoreless first quarter, OLSH (7-3), which advances to play No. 1 Clairton (7-2) next week, finally got going.

And GCC (6-5) could continue to escape on a chilly fall night.

“As soon as we kicked off, the kids could kind of relax and get back to themselves for a couple hours,” Thomas said. “These kids weren’t going to give up.”

Ziggy McIntosh caught an 18-yard pass from Neimiah Azeem, and the Chargers led at the break, 7-0.

After the safety, Azeem scored on a 1-yard run after a GCC interception — one of two picks by Dereon Greer.

BJ Vaughn then scored on a 27-yard run with 8 minutes, 51 seconds left in the fourth, before Greer’s second takeaway led to a short score by Brandon Brazell, who ran for 100 yards on 21 carries, and a 28-2 advantage.

Azeem was 13 of 21 for 140 yards.

GCC found the end zone with 23 seconds to play when Tyree Turner threw a 23-yard pass to Dlugos.

OLSH had to prepare to play an opponent for whom it felt sorry.

“It’s a sad situation,” OLSH coach Dan Bradley said. “Also coaching at a Catholic school, it extends beyond and the ties are a lot deeper. We acknowledge their pain. It’s something you never could imagine happening.”

A touching pregame ceremony saw the teams take the field together, side-by-side. They gathered in a circle at midfield for a prayer before a moment of silence.

“OLSH reached out as soon as they found out,” Thomas said. “They organized the prayer before the game. Great people over there. They understand this is more than football, and these guys just needed something.”

Joe Semelka said the linemen formed a bond with Oslosky and Farrell.

“Coach Joe had a lot of catchphrases,” Semelka said. “When we went to Pine Springs for camp he would always say, ‘Cabin 3 on the line.’ Coach B.J. gave us these decals on our helmets, ‘Embrace the Suck.’ He loved to say that. It basically means you might not always be put in the best situations, but you have to make the best of it.”

Now that the game and season are over, Thomas hopes his players can reflect and better comprehend the shock and adversity that stifled the program in a few days’ time.

“Hopefully this might have tired the kids out some so they can get some sleep,” Thomas said. “Our kids did not stop, did not back down and gave everything they could.

“Nobody really teaches you how to cope with something like this. I feel for both families. These kids have been through a lot.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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