Westmoreland County football notebook: No. 4 GCC prepared for test at No. 1 Clairton

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Thursday, October 14, 2021 | 11:24 AM


Greensburg Central Catholic might be new to the Trib HSSN Class A football rankings this week, but playing Clairton is nothing new to the Centurions.

It is, though, to their coach.

The Class A Eastern Conference game against the top-ranked Bears looks to be the toughest challenge so far for first-year coach Marko Thomas and his staff. But the team is confident it has the talent and personnel to play with the Bears.

No. 4 GCC (5-2, 3-1) visits Clairton (4-2, 4-0) on Friday night at Neil C. Brown Stadium.

“It’s probably more stressful than usual, but we’re preparing like we always do,” Thomas said. “The last two weeks we have done a better job than we did against (Bishop) Canevin. We’ve cleaned up some things. We can’t make mistakes. The little things matter. (Clairton) is too tough to have this game come down to us doing something stupid.”

GCC posted back-to-back shutouts after losing to Bishop Canevin, 20-14. It beat Springdale (35-0) and Riverview (66-0) with big plays and sound defense.

But this week is different.

“It’s like in school, it’s one of our biggest exams of the year,” GCC senior fullback and linebacker Danny Dlugos said. “We have to limit their big plays and play smart. “

The Centurions’ defense has allowed less than 700 yards this season. They had two safeties last week against Riverview.

“Defense has kept us in it,” Thomas said. “It’s been fantastic.”

The coach particularly likes what he’s seen from cornerbacks Nate Dlugos and Amari Mack, who were moved to that part of the secondary.

Nate Dlugos was playing quarterback, but Thomas now is starting Tyree Turner after playing both under center.

“Nate and Amari have only allowed one or two catches all year,” Thomas said. “They have played superb.”

GCC is allowing just 10.3 points.

Kiantae Robinson leads GCC with 41 tackles, and Danny Dlugos has 36. Taishaun Jamison has 29 stops and two interceptions.

Ryan Kimmel leads with five sacks, and Aaron Stasko has four. Kimmel has two defensive touchdowns and a safety.

“Our defense has to keep playing well, and we can’t get trapped on one end,” Thomas said. “We let Canevin start on short fields. I think they started at our 6, 20, 25 and 40. That’s can’t happen this week.”

GCC has overcome injuries and absences to a few starters. Jaydin Canady had to sit out two games after he was ejected against Bishop Canevin. Joe Blahovec and Cole Spivak also missed time with injuries.

Clairton seems to be throwing the ball more with quarterback Capone Jones looking for wideout Brooklyn Cannon.

Thomas said lineman Kanye Hawkins will present a challenge.

“You watch him on film, and you can tell he just wants to hurt you,” Thomas said. “He’s mean.”

Offensively, GCC has weapons. Last week, Danny Dlugos, Jamison and Turner each had two rushing touchdowns.

LV set to return

Ligonier Valley never imagined it would have to forfeit a football game, whether the Rams were playing in District 6 or now in the WPIAL.

But the undermanned Rams (5-2, 0-2) made the most of their 1-0 loss last week. They could not play Serra Catholic because of a high number of injuries.

What did the team do instead?

“They organized their own team picnic on Friday and got to enjoy each other when they needed each other the most,” coach Roger Beitel said.

Beitel hopes the 0-2 start in the WPIAL 2A Allegheny Conference is not too deep of a hole to recover from. The Rams host Summit Academy (0-7, 0-2) Friday.

“What would have really set us back would have been losing any more kids as a result of playing kids in positions that would have put them at a risk of injury or injury to others,” Beitel said. “We had very meaningful practices because we had an opportunity to move players to new positions where they had zero experience and teach and coach them how to play new positions.”

Beitel said most of the injuries are season ending, which means an uphill battle awaits his team, and a next-man-up approach has come into play.

“We have two (players) that have the potential to return to the lineup this week, but until I get medical clearance, we will be moving forward assuming that they are out,” Beitel said. “Even if they can return, they will be limited due to the amount of time missed from the lineup.”

Fetter returns

Latrobe senior quarterback Bobby Fetter returned to the lineup week as the Wildcats (3-4, 1-1) pummeled Connellsville, 55-13.

Fetter injured his left shoulder, which had previously been surgically repaired, in a Week 1 loss to Norwin.

Last week, he ran for touchdowns of 27 and 15 yards, and threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Cory Boerio.

“I think it is always a good thing when you get your starting QB back,” Latrobe coach Jason Marucco said. “But when you are missing multiple guys from practice the last couple of weeks, you are not going to be as sharp as you would hope to be.

“Overall, it was a good performance but we have to clean the penalties up and execute at a higher level.”

Fetter has completed 13 of 19 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns in limited action.

Getting their kicks

Offense gets the headlines, and defense has its moments in the limelight. But special teams play often goes unnoticed.

But that has changed some this season because kickers are making a significant impact for local programs.

Consider: seven area kickers have made field goals. Penn-Trafford’s Nathan Schlessinger has connected on five, including two against Woodland Hills and two in last week’s 15-10 win over Gateway. He made a local-best 42-yard attempt in the latter win.

Norwin’s Joey Castle has two field goals, ande Jack Dykes (Kiski Area), Joe Bayne (Franklin Regional), Daishaun Alexander (Greensburg Salem), Mitchell Steele (Jeannette) and Ryan Reitler (Greensburg Central Catholic) have made one each.

Rankings

Penn-Trafford’s win over then-No. 3 Gateway boosted the Warriors to No. 3 in the Trib HSSN Class 5A rankings.

Greensburg Central Catholic moved into the Class A rankings for the first time this season, at No. 4.

Belle Vernon remains No. 1 in 4A, while Mt. Pleasant stayed at No. 4 in 3A.

Playoffs on the line

Two county teams can clinch WPIAL playoff spots with wins Friday.

Belle Vernon (4A) and Mt. Pleasant (3A) qualify with wins, with Mt. Pleasant also needing South Park to beat South Allegheny.

Greensburg Central Catholic (A) can clinch with a win over Clairton, accompanied by wins from Bishop Canevin over Jeannette and Leechburg over Riverview.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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