Rochester dominates Greensburg Central Catholic in WPIAL 1st round

Friday, November 4, 2022 | 11:06 PM

A No. 14 seed in the WPIAL Class A playoffs apparently didn’t sit well with the Rochester football team. Don’t believe the Rams coaches and players if they tell you otherwise.

“We don’t look at the seedings,” Rochester coach Gene Matsook said with a straight face.

Oh, really?

Judging from the sheer domination the Rams displayed Friday night over No. 3 Greensburg Central Catholic, Matsook’s team was a little more than incensed when the pairings came out earlier this week.

Antonio Laure rushed for a career-high 223 yards and scored four touchdowns, including a 30-yard reception from quarterback Jayden Norman on Norman’s only attempt of the night, to lead Rochester to a 36-15 beatdown of GCC in a first-round playoff game at Hempfield.

Dom Guido added 105 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Rams (6-4), who advance to play No. 6 Fort Cherry next Friday in the quarterfinals.

“We were right on the mark tonight,” Matsook said. “I told the kids this was going to be a tough one. They were seeded third. But we’ve played well on the road this year. We were 4-1 on the road. I said, ‘It’s good we’re going on the road.’ Did I think we were going to beat them this bad? Not really because their skill is so good.”

Greensburg Central Catholic (8-3) hasn’t won a playoff game since 2011 and lost in the first round for the second time in as many seasons under coach Marko Thomas, who said the loss tarnished an otherwise successful year.

“It doesn’t mean anything if you’re not the team standing at the end,” he said. “We had a good season, I’ll give you that.”

GCC made a two-game improvement on last season’s 6-5 mark.

“We do have a lot of young guys who got playing time, so we’re encouraged by that,” he said. “It’s the offseason for us now. Next thing you know, we’ll be getting in the weight room and starting all over. This game will be something we’ll harp on. Every year we’ve got to take strides to get better. Rochester was a bigger and stronger team than us. That might be where it is.”

Rochester, without five injured offensive starters, including quarterback Parker Lyons and wide receiver Jerome Mullins, dominated from the opening.

“They were bigger and tougher,” Thomas said. “That team was physical, and they just put it to us.”

Norman, a junior, has filled in for Lyons at quarterback for much of the season and has relied on the two-headed rushing attack of Laure, a 5-foot-8, 175-pound sophomore, and Guido, a 6-0, 160-pound junior, to carry the offense.

“You talk about our offense,” Matsook said, “but our defense played a great game tonight against a highly skilled team.”

Rochester assembled a tidy 79-yard drive on its first possession, chewing up large chunks of real estate and taking an 8-0 lead on Guido’s 5-yard touchdown run and Laure’s 2-point conversion run.

The Rams got the ball right back when Laure intercepted a pass by Greensburg Central Catholic quarterback Tyree Turner at the Rochester 20.

“Credit to (Laure). I thought our kid had it,” Thomas said.

The Rams found the end zone again on a series of rushes that culminated with Laure’s 19-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 14-0 with 1 minute, 29 seconds left in the first quarter.

Laure, who led the way for Rochester with 95 yards rushing heading into the second quarter, appeared surprised by his career-high total.

“I didn’t know I had that much,” he said. “It feels pretty good.”

The Rams were backed up deep in their end on Samir Crosby’s 49-yard punt for GCC, but offsetting penalties required a re-kick, which resulted in a shorter boot to the Rochester 28.

The Rams continued to pound the ball on the ground before Norman cashed in on his only pass attempt — the 30-yard scoring play to Laure before the pair succeeded on a 2-point conversion pass to make it 22-0.

GCC seemingly answered with a Da’sjon Craggette’s 62-yard touchdown run. But the play was nullified by a penalty, and the Centurions, hampered by more penalties, went backwards from there.

“When we finally did have a big play, it got called back,” Thomas said.

Rochester tried to score on one final opportunity, but GCC’s defense came alive and forced the Rams to punt for the first time inside 1 minute remaining before intermission.

Rochester dominated the first-half statistics, outgaining GCC in rushing yards, 224 to minus-6, with Laure leading the way with 122 yards and Guido adding 85.

The second half saw GCC outscore Rochester, 15-14, as Turner heated up and finished with 129 yards passing on 11 of 17 attempts. His 28-yard touchdown pass to Amari Mack in the final minute on fourth down accounted for the Centurions’ second score.

Earlier in the fourth quarter, Craggette put GCC on the board with a 1-yard touchdown run.

Laure, who rushed for touchdowns on runs of 19, 2 and 3 yards, showed little emotion afterwards, except when he was reminded of Rochester’s No. 14 seed.

“Just got to keep working and come back better and stronger,” he said before an imaginary light bulb seemed to illuminate his mood.

“We wanted to show everybody that we aren’t ranked 14th. We should be ranked higher. We did what we had to do.”

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