Trib HSSN Football Team of the Week: Central Valley

Tuesday, December 1, 2020 | 3:42 PM

Mark Lyons had been to the top of the WPIAL mountain top four times, including each of the last two years.

But as time expired in the 2020 PIAA Class 3A championship game, the only coach in the 11-year history of Central Valley football felt something completely different.

“You’re in it this long and you wonder what that feeling would be like,” Lyons said. “I never imagined the type of feeling I felt. It felt like a big load off my shoulders, relief. It kind of sucked all the energy out of me, and I froze for a second of time there.”

A year after losing a fourth-quarter lead and falling in the PIAA Class 3A finals, Central Valley returned to Hershey and capped off a perfect 12-0 season with a 35-21 victory over District 3 champion Wyomissing.

This was the only game the Warriors did not mercy rule their opponent. In fact, Central Valley trailed 6-0 after one quarter and 14-7 at halftime.

“We really never talked about the mercy rule, and if that was a goal for us, we kind of kept that out of our weekly equation to be successful,” Lyons said. “We reminded our guys that this was a state championship game and those guys want to win it as much as you.

“Our defensive coaches went in there at halftime, and they did a great job. We changed a few things schematically and reminded our guys to have eye discipline being physical in your gap.”

The changes up front on the line in the second half worked as the Warriors outscored the Spartans 28-7 in the final two quarters.

“Not only from the defensive side, but I thought on the offensive side (too),” Lyons said. “Our offensive line took it upon them to impose their will in the second half, and they did that.”

On offense, Central Valley running back Landon Alexander continued his torrid postseason with 120 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns. For the season, the junior was the fifth-leading rusher in the district with 1,443 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. In five postseason games, Alexander ran for 627 yards and 12 touchdowns.

However, when Central Valley needed a big play, it was senior quarterback Ameer Dudley who delivered with both his arm and his legs.

The Harvard recruit threw for 93 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 61 yards and delivered big play after big play.

“That’s what winners do and Ameer is a winner,” Lyons said. “He is the epitome of a team player that we stress upon. We have so many athletes; he didn’t have to carry the offense on his shoulders.”

Lyons was asked if it was even more rewarding winning district and state championships in a season that added several more obstacles for every team that participated during the pandemic this fall.

“Absolutely,” Lyons said. “Back in April and May, I don’t think anybody thought we could be having this conversation about football. It starts with the PIAA when Dr. (Bob) Lombardi said if we don’t try, we’ll never know. My hat’s off to all those people in leadership roles and also our school district, our directors and our administration, giving us a plan and trusting us as coaches to follow the plan and allowing these kids to play.”

Winning multiple championships is like having multiple kids in that you never want to pick a favorite or which is best. While admitting this group was probably his most complete team he has coached at Central Valley, Lyons loves the fact that this adds to the growing legacy of Warriors football.

“I will say this, after 11 years, we have given our people — our fans, our parents and our community — an opportunity to sit around the dinner table and compare teams. To me, that’s the sign of a program. If they’re able to have a healthy, friendly discussion about what team was better, I’d like to think we’ve established ourselves as a program.

“I’d rather they talk about our own teams, comparing which one was better, then discussing someone else’s teams.”

2020 HSSN Team of the Week

Week 12 — Central Valley Warriors

Week 11 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars

Week 10 – Jeannette Jayhawks

Week 9 – Central Catholic Vikings

Week 8 – Penn-Trafford Warriors

Week 7 – McKeesport Tigers

Week 6 – Elizabeth Forward Warriors

Week 5 – Aliquippa Quips

Week 4 – Serra Catholic Eagles

Week 3 – Avella Eagles

Week 2 – Peters Township Indians

Week 1 – Chartiers Valley Colts

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