Strong defense spearheads Central Catholic’s shutout victory over Mt. Lebanon

Friday, September 15, 2023 | 11:51 PM

Behind a quick start and relentless defense, Central Catholic won a battle of unbeaten Class 6A teams Friday in the South Hills, besting Mt. Lebanon, 49-0.

No. 2 Central Catholic (4-0, 1-0 6A-1) led 35-0 at the break and coasted through a quick second half with the running clock en route to the conference-opening victory.

Perhaps more impressive than their offensive attack was the Vikings’ tenacious defense. Mt. Lebanon (3-1, 0-1 6A) turned it over once and had 8 yards of offense before penalties in the first half.

“I thought we got off to a good start,” said Central Catholic coach Ryan Lehmeier. “Our defense was lights out tonight and got the ball back to us quickly, and that fueled those first three drives of the game.”

Central Catholic got the ball to start the game and used just 1 minute, 10 seconds to score the first points of the teams’ 6A opener. The drive was finished by a 33-yard pass from senior quarterback Payton Wehner to senior receiver Peter Gonzalez. The 2-point pass was incomplete.

The Vikings’ next drive was capped by a 30-yard touchdown pass from Wehner to Jacob Sassic with 9:12 left. Wehner then found Vernon Settles for the 2-point conversion.

A three-and-out forced by the Vikings defense and a good punt return from Settles set up another scoring drive. The short march was finished with a 3-yard touchdown run by Elijah Faulkner with 6:03 left in the first quarter.

Faulkner, who finished the night with 72 yards on nine carries, scored twice in the second quarter on runs of 6 and 15 yards to finish the half for the Vikings.

“That’s a really good football team. There’s really no weakness out there to exploit,” said Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Collodi. “We’ll learn from it and get better, but they took it to us tonight.”

Wehner scored a rushing touchdown of 10 yards in the third quarter to cap his strong night. He carried it seven times for 87 yards and the touchdown to go with his 12-for-20, 170-yard passing effort. He threw two touchdown passes.

Amari Shields finished with more than 50 yards on the ground for the Vikings. Central Catholic scored its final points with just over two minutes to go on an interception by Jonathan Young Jr., which he ran in from 5 yards to make it 49-0.

“The coaching staff on that side is relentless. Our defense has taken their mentality and we practice that way,” said Lehmeier. “Really happy and excited for those guys. Those shutouts aren’t easy to get.”

Of his offense’s ability, Lehmeier said they look to be as opportunistic as they can and feed the hot hand.

Mt. Lebanon now turns its attention to next week and Seneca Valley, a game that could determine the Blue Devils’ playoff hopes.

Up next for the Vikings is a date with North Allegheny in a game that could determine the conference champion.

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