Trib HSSN football player of the week for 2023 Week 4

Monday, September 25, 2023 | 6:19 PM

Central Catholic junior running back Elijah Faulkner entered the Class 6A No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown at North Allegheny as the Vikings leading rusher.

He left Newman Stadium with rave reviews and a tad sore after his monstrous performance in front of thousands in attendance and tens of thousands watching online.

Faulkner rushed for 229 yards and scored four touchdowns in the most anticipated regular season game of the year as the Vikings cruised past the Tigers, 50-22.

“Our game plan was to run the ball,” Faulkner said. “We were going to spread them out and run the ball. I wasn’t expecting to get that many carries, but I was definitely expecting to get more than usual.”

Faulkner entered the game with averaging 10 carries a game. In Central Catholic’s first four games, he had 41 carries for 258 yards and six touchdowns.

Again NA, the junior nearly matched his season total in carries with 32 and in touchdowns with four.

“I think the last time I got 32 carries in a game, I was in pee-wees,” Faulkner said. “I was feeling pretty good and my line was playing excellent, getting to the second level. I’m definitely a little sore, but in terms of injuries or anything like that, I’m fine.”

Faulkner feels his job carrying the ball in this offense, alongside the other Vikings running backs, is made easier with the passing threat senior quarterback Payton Wehner brings to the table as one of the district’s top passers.

“I do think (the passing game) is a big threat,” Faulkner said. “We help each other out. If the running isn’t working, we throw the ball over them, and if the throwing isn’t working, we’re going to run the ball between the tackles. It keeps defenses honest because we can (hurt) them with both.”

While Faulkner later scored on touchdown runs of 2, 1 and 5 yards, his first touchdown may have been the biggest and help set the tone for a huge night.

Trailing in the first quarter, Faulkner got the Vikings on the board with a big 30-yard touchdown jaunt.

“When we got off the field after the first drive, we knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Faulkner said. “We kept our composure and went back out there on the second drive and we kept running the ball. We knew we wanted to run the ball at certain people.”

There are many members of this Central Catholic team who have already committed or who will eventually go on to play Division I college football. Being surrounded by so much talent helps Faulkner do his job on the field, and he leans on his talented teammates to help him improve his game as well.

“I love talking to (senior linebackers) Anthony Speca and Cole Sullivan about how they match up against running backs and how they watch film,” he said. “It makes me a better player as a running back.”

With all the hype leading up to the showdown, Faulkner credits his coaches for preparing a winning game plan in preparing to take on a North Allegheny team that beat Central Catholic in the 2022 Class 6A championship game.

“Everyone’s adrenaline was up and after last year, everybody wanted that game,” he said. “This is one of the biggest rivalries around here and we were just all ready to play.”

Week 4 honorable mentions

Tasso Wipple – Penn-Trafford

It appears Penn-Trafford has found the key to success: Make sure their opponents don’t lasso Tasso, because when he runs wild, the Warriors win. Two weeks ago, he gained 215 yards in a win over Woodland Hills. On Friday, Whipple broke the school single-game rushing record with 300 yards rushing on 23 carries in a Class 5A Big East Conference-opening win over Hempfield, 41-18. Whipple scored three rushing touchdowns and had one receiving score.

Derek Burk – Deer Lakes

It appears some of that championship mojo that the Deer Lakes boys basketball team earned last winter is rubbing off on the football squad. A year after finishing 4-7, the Lancers are shining bright at 4-1 heading into Class 3A Allegheny 6 Conference play this week. Part of the reason for the success has been the play of senior quarterback Derek Burk, who connected on 15 of 22 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown toss as Deer Lakes defeated host Southmoreland, 24-7.

Jaivin Peel, Western Beaver

Jaivin Peel is only 14 years old, but this freshman is turning heads with his numbers only five games into his scholastic career. A student at Lincoln Park, which does not have a football team but co-ops with Western Beaver, Peel was shining bright again Friday when he hit on 12 of his 17 passes for 338 yards and four touchdowns on passes of 45, 49, 63 and 27 yards as the Golden Beavers bounced back from a one-point loss to Neshannock last week with a 41-18 win at Ellwood City.

2023 players of the week

Week 3 – Jonah Williamson, Trinity

Week 2 – Jake Wolfe, Montour

Week 1 – Bruce Giles, Connellsville

Week Zero – Cameron Epps, South Allegheny


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