Pittsburgh Central Catholic uses Strong Defense win 6A Title
Written by: John Robbins on Sunday, November 17th, 2019
Possibly the final edition of the rivalry between the Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings and Pine Richland Rams did not disappoint. The thrilling defensive slugfest ended with the Vikings winning their 7th WPIAL title in school history by a score of 10-7. The first quarter had 6 punts out of the 8 drives that occured in that quarter. The teams took turns causing turnovers. First, Pine Richland caused the Vikings offense to turnover the ball on downs. Three drives later Pittsburgh Central Catholic returned the favor when senior linebacker Max Ciganik rushed the Rams’ junior quarterback Cole Spencer and caused him to fumble. Then, there was a fumble caused by the Vikings’ senior defensive tackle Elliot Donald. Central Catholic ran out the rest of the time in the first quarter making the score 0-0.
The second quarter continued with three lost fumbles, two by Pine Richland and one by Pittsburgh Central Catholic. The Vikings’ Donald caused the first fumble of quarter which lead to Pittsburgh Central Catholic punting the ball. After the punt, the Vikings once again caused a fumble when senior defensive end A.J. Beatty laid a hit on the Rams’ Spencer. As Beatty was taking him to the ground, senior linebacker Ameer Allen knocked the ball out of his hands leading to a Vikings recovery. On the ensuing Pittsburgh Central Catholic drive, the Vikings cooked up the first big offensive play of the day when junior quarterback Dom Pieto handed off to sophomore receiver Brandon Jackson who flipped the ball to junior receiver Anderson Cynkar on the reverse who would go 22 yards and into Pine Richland territory. The Rams defense would respond on the next play when the snap was bobbled by Pieto and was recovered by senior linebacker Nevan Novitski. The final two drives of the half would run down the clock keeping the score at 0-0 going into halftime.
Pine Richland would be the first team to score any points when Spencer found junior receiver Eli Jochem in the endzone for a 12 yard touchdown pass to put the Rams up 7-0. Pittsburgh Central Catholic would respond 2 drives later after the Rams fumbled a punt and it was recovered by Beatty at the Pine Richland 41 yard line. The field position deep in Pine Richland territory setup a 29 yard touchdown pass from Pieto to Cynkar to tie the game at 7 at the end of the third quarter.
The game changing play came when the Vikings’ junior defensive back Chase Horne intercepted a pass and raced 55 yards down the sideline before being caught by the Rams’ Spencer and pushed out of bounds. This setup Central Catholic at the Pine Richland 31 yardline. After gaining 8 yards, Pittsburgh Central Catholic relied on the leg of senior kicker Johnathan Opalko who hit the 40 yard field goal just inside the left upright to put the Vikings up 10-7. Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s defense would hold strong and cause an incomplete pass on the last play of the game to win their 7th WPIAL title in school history and the second title since the move to 6 classifications. The Vikings move to 11-1 on the year and advance to the PIAA 6A Quarterfinals against State College next week. The location and time are to be determined. The Pine Richland Rams finish 10-2 and with a share of the 6A Quad County Conference championship.
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