Percise Colon scores clutch touchdown to carry NA past Central Catholic

Friday, September 6, 2019 | 11:33 PM

North Allegheny coach Art Walker earned his 200th win Friday night, but he won’t remember the game, because of the milestone number.

He’ll remember it for the grand heist his team pulled off in the final three minutes.

With the Tigers trailing for the duration their offense struggling, Percise Colon delivered on special teams with a thrilling 60-yard punt return and backup quarterback Peter Vardzel scored on a 2-point conversion with three minutes remaining to give them the lead.

The Class 6A No. 3-ranked Tigers held on from there for an 11-10 victory over No. 2 Central Catholic at Shaler Friday night.

“To win it against Central (Catholic) where I coached for seven years is special,” Walker said. “I know a lot of those guys. I’ll remember this one, not because of the number, but because of how we finished, how our coaches did a good job and how our kids never quit.”

Prior to the comeback, North Allegheny struggled offensively, including Colon, who finished with 14 yards rushing.

So, Walker asked Colon to try to make something happen on a punt and he delivered. Colon got a block down the right sideline and slipped one tackle before crossing the goal line and sending the North Allegheny fans to their feet.

“That’s we spend an hour and 30 minutes on special teams at practice each week,” Colon said. “Special teams are a very important part of the game and we showed that tonight on the field.”

The Tigers were going to go for the extra point to tie, but Central Catholic jumped offside and moved the ball to the 1. That’s when the call came in to go for two even though there was some debate within the coaching staff up until the snap.

“If they didn’t jump, we were kicking it,” Walker said. “There was a lot of yes and a lot of no (on the play call) between the coaching staff. The special teams coach wanted to do it. I wanted to do it and there were a couple of guys that said we were outnumbered. I went down there to call time out and I didn’t get there in time. Thank goodness.”

Vardzel, a junior who is the holder as well as the backup quarterback, felt good about the call and was happy to execute it.

“We had run that a bunch in practice and we were pretty confident in it,” Vardzel said. “Brady Leczo to my right was the fullback and I knew he was going to kick out the edge and give me space to get it done.”

Central Catholic had one last chance, starting at its own 35 with two-and-a-half minutes remaining, but quarterback Dom Pieto fumbled while being sacked and Sam Sheridan recovered for North Allegheny, putting the game on ice.

The Vikings had an opportunity to go up two scores early in the fourth quarter when they had first and 10 at the North Allegheny 12 but couldn’t find the end zone and had to settle for a 29-yard field goal from Jonathan Olpalko that made it 10-3.

Central Catholic (2-1, 1-1) held North Allegheny (3-0, 2-0) to four first downs and 130 total yards of offense.

“It was a well-played game and it did turn on that punt return,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. “I can’t fault our defense. They played like hell, but we couldn’t get the first down we needed to put the game away”

North Allegheny’s defense was stout as well, holding Central Catholic to 163 total yards and nine first downs.

The teams combined for 17 punts.

Eddy Tillman broke free on a counter draw play and raced down the sidelines and into the end zone untouched for a 56-yard touchdown that put Central Catholic on top, 7-0. It was the first points given up all season by North Allegheny.

Brandon Persad booted a 28-yard field goal early in the second quarter to get North Allegheny on the board.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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