Central Catholic blanks Woodland Hills to advance to Class AAAA semfinals
Central Catholic’s Johnny Petrishen has heard it all too often how there’s three sides to every football game.
For awhile though, they relied on only two.
Petrishen returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown and his dominant Central Catholic defense also scored twice in Friday night’s 28-0 quarterfinal victory over Woodland Hills in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs. Of the three sides, the Vikings offense was last to reach the end zone with a game-clinching touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
“(At halftime) I said: ‘Hey, we need some help from you guys (on offense) too,’ ” Petrishen said with a laugh. “And they did. They put the icing on the cake, which is what we needed.”
With two of the WPIAL’s strongest defenses, neither offense found much success at North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium. But Central Catholic was versatile enough to win with defense and special teams. Petrishen’s punt return was the only first-half touchdown.
“This was a statement win,” said Petrishen, who plays safety, wideout and returns kicks. “Coming off the Pine-Richland loss (in Week 8), I think we had something to prove. That was a wake-up call. … Some people were doubting us after that game.”
The shutout was the fifth this season for No. 3 seed Central Catholic (10-1), the defending WPIAL champion. But none was as impressive as blanking No. 6 Woodland Hills (8-3) and its backfield of Division I recruits.
The Wolverines had averaged more than 30 points.
“This cat put a game plan together on defense as good as I’ve seen in 33 years of coaching,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said of defensive coordinator Dave Fleming. “Hours of film.”
Woodland Hills had 144 yards from scrimmage, led by tailback Miles Sanders with 85 yards on 17 carries. But Central Catholic’s offense wasn’t much better. The Vikings had only 124 yards. Vinny Emanuele had 67 and a touchdown on 17 carries.
This was a rematch of last season’s WPIAL Class AAAA championship that Central Catholic won 27-7. No. 2 Penn-Trafford awaits in the semifinals after its victory over No. 7 North Allegheny.
Ahead 7-0, a 25-yard, third-quarter fumble return by Rashad Wheeler made Central Catholic’s lead two touchdowns. Then in the fourth quarter, the Vikings scored twice in 23 seconds. The first was a 28-yard touchdown run by Emanuele with 6:13 left. The second was a 51-yard interception return by Kurt Hinish, who caught a batted ball.
Woodland Hills had four turnovers.
“Some nights things just don’t go your way,” Woodland Hills coach George Novak said. “I was proud of our defense. Our offense couldn’t get anything going.”
The punt-return touchdown was the fourth this season for Petrishen, who had a 66-yarder last week. His others covered 57 and 37 yards, so Woodland Hills knew the danger.
The teams combined for nine punts and only five first downs. Woodland Hills had 74 yards from scrimmage, with 47 on a run by Sanders on the final play of the first half. The Wolverines needed more than 22 minutes to earn a first down. Central Catholic had 35 yards. But Petrishen chased down this punt near the left hashmarks and carried it toward the right sideline, where blockers waited to escort him to the end zone. The touchdown came with 7:54 left in the first quarter and was monumental in a first half with almost no offense.
With a 7-0 lead, Central Catholic played conservatively after halftime. Facing fourth-and-3 at the Woodland Hills 32, the Vikings chose to punt on its first possession.
The cautiousness worked when Woodland Hills’ Sanders fumbled on a second-down carry. Wheeler, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive lineman, recovered and lumbered 25 yards to the end zone.
Central Catholic led 14-0 with 6:10 left in the third.
Woodland Hills’ offense mounted its best push early in the fourth quarter with a seven-play drive that reached Central’s 30. But on fourth-and-4, quarterback Jeremiah Jones’ run ended a yard short. With 10:15 left, the Vikings took over on downs and quickly added to their lead.