No. 3 Central Catholic leans on talented line, Eddy Tillman to defeat No. 1 Pine-Richland

Friday, September 27, 2019 | 11:20 PM

A’meer Allen noticed a troubling trend in recent years.

“Every single team that won the coin toss deferred,” the Central Catholic lineman said. “They wanted our offense to get on the field first because they felt they could stop us.”

It’s no secret that Central’s offense has at times been its own worst enemy.

But the Vikings showed Friday night that maybe those offensive woes are buried in the past. Junior running back Eddy Tillman rushed for 185 yards and three touchdowns as third-ranked Central Catholic leaned on a dominant line, played nearly mistake free and defeated No. 1 Pine-Richland, 29-7, at Carnegie Mellon’s Gesling Stadium.

With twin brothers A’meer and A’maar Allen as bookend tackles, Central Catholic (5-1, 3-1) controlled the line of scrimmage and found success with Tillman, who carried 31 times and scored on runs of five, 12 and 43 yards. But maybe more important was that the Vikings had no turnovers.

A year ago, Central Catholic committed seven in a loss to Pine-Richland.

“When we looked back at last year, we had 19 turnovers in our four losses,” offensive coordinator Steve Bezila said. “We’ve been harping ball security. We talk about it all the time: The team with the fewer turnovers is probably going to win the football game.”

Central Catholic sacked Pine-Richland quarterback Cole Spencer five times Friday and held the Rams to 20 rushing yards, another strong performance from a defense that hasn’t allowed more than 14 points in a game all season. But this was the third straight game that Central’s offense also shined and scored at least four touchdowns.

After scoring 10 points each against Seneca Valley and North Allegheny, the Vikings have 105 combined in their past three.

“Once we get our confidence up, it’s over,” Allen said.

Pine-Richland’s defense entered allowing six points per game but Central Catholic tripled that average in the second quarter alone. Tillman had touchdown runs of 12 and 5 yards and Sharod Lindsey scored on a 14-yard reception from quarterback Dom Pieto as the Vikings built a 20-0 lead.

The Vikings ran 29 times in the first half behind a line that averages 270 pounds.

Along with tackles A’meer Allen (6-4, 280) and A’maar Allen (6-3, 260), the Vikings offensive line features guards Matt Altsman (6-1, 265) and Liam Kearney (6-3, 265), and center Thomas Hartnett (6-3, 295), a Dartmouth recruit.

North Carolina recruit A.J. Beatty (6-5, 260) plays tight end.

“They were definitely the better team tonight,” Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz said. “They dominated both lines of scrimmage and played better on special teams. It’s hard to win a game with that.”

Central Catholic played mostly mistake-free, but miscues hurt Pine-Richland.

The Rams (5-1, 3-1) lost a fumble, had a punt blocked and committed 14 penalties. A holding call negated a would-be 79-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter and a hurdling call cut short another long play in the third.

Spencer scored Pine-Richland’s lone touchdown on a 2-yard run just before halftime.

“We were shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties,” Kasperowicz said. “But even with all that said, they were tougher tonight. It would have been tough either way, but we didn’t help ourselves by any means.”

The mistakes provided Central Catholic with good field position and the Vikings capitalized. When Pine-Richland fumbled on its second possession, Central Catholic’s Elliot Donald recovered at the 16-yard line and the Vikings took a 6-0 lead four plays later.

Central’s touchdown drives covered 16, 45, 57 and 40 yards.

Tillman’s third touchdown was a 43-yarder in the third quarter, and kicker Johnathan Opalko added a 31-yard field goal. Tillman had six carries that gained 10 yards or more.

“It was a great offensive effort,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. “We got that running play out. I credit my offensive coordinator; it was a nice job of getting them going.”

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

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