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Central Valley dominant in semifinal win over Ringgold

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Rich Downer | For Trib Total Media
Ringgold's Mayson Atkinson (8) is chased by Central Valley's Colton Rossi during the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, at Chartiers Valley.

No. 1 Central Valley (12-0) flexed its offensive, defensive and special teams muscles and exploded for five first-half touchdowns Friday in a 41-13 win over Ringgold in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals.

The Warriors advanced to the title game next Friday against West Allegheny at Heinz Field. This marks CV’s second consecutive trip to the finals.

“I feel for these kids,” first-year Ringgold coach Nick Milchovich said. “They exceeded our expectations. We put together a fantastic 10-game winning streak and excited the entire community.”

Winning the coin toss but deferring until the second half, Central Valley recovered its game-opening onside kick to set the offense in gear.

Five plays and 1:54 later, Pitt recruit Jordan Whitehead scored his first touchdown of the night on a 6-yard run. Whitehead rushed for 90 yards on 11 first-half carries, and topped all rushers with 92 yards on 11 carries.

Following a Ringgold punt, the Warriors drove 80 yards in 9 plays, with Preston Johnson capping the drive with a 2-yard run.

“We wanted to keep it away from their big-play guys,” Central Valley coach Mark Lyons said, referring to the unusual kickoff. “We were fortunate to cover the ball and that put us in good field position to start the game.”

Ringgold coach Nick Milchovich agreed, noting his team was immediately in the hole, “especially against an offense as potent as Central Valley. That play set the tone for the entire game for us. We had trouble moving the ball and we could not stop Central Valley.”” ‏

In the first half, Ringgold (10-2) managed only 45 yards on the ground and 56 passing, and was outgained 339-101. Central Valley moved the chains for 14 first-half first downs while holding the Rams to three.

Early in the second quarter, Johnson blocked a Ringgold punt to set up a 2-play 19-yard drive for Central Valley, with Whitehead bouncing off Ringgold tacklers for an 18-yard touchdown run.

“Another big play for us,” Lyons said, referring to the blocked punt. “We were up by two touchdowns but that was a key play, setting up another score. That added to our momentum.”

After Central Valley’s Luke Kusler recovered a Ringgold fumble midway through the second period, Warriors quarterback John George connected with Chase Maladin on a 6-yard touchdown pass for a 28-0 lead.

With 1:43 remaining in the second quarter, Whitehead intercepted a Ringgold pass to key a 7-play 87-yard drive, capped by George’s 6 yard touchdown run with 36 seconds remaining in the half.

“We just couldn’t mount any effective offense against Central Valley,” Milchovich said. “That (Central Valley) is a good team. They can run, throw and they are physical. Regardless of classification, that may be the best team in the WPIAL.”

Central Valley upped its lead to 41-0 when backup quarterback Chris Callaghan scored on a 4-yard run at 7:56 of the third period.

Ringgold got on the scoreboard at 10:30 of the fourth quarter when Chacar Berry scored on a 6-yard run. Reserve Ringgold quarterback George Martin finished the scoring with a 2-yard run with 3:14 left in the game.

“Our goal was to get the ball to our playmakers,” Lyons said, noting Whitehead’s numbers.

George completed 10-of-15 first-half passes for 147 yards and one touchdown. Berry led the Rams with 48 yards rushing on 10 carries.

“The pleasure was all mine in coaching this team,” Milchovich said. “We had the same approach to this game as we did all season and it was business as usual in practice. Our goal was to play sound, fundamental football, but Central Valley was too strong in every facet.

“Central Valley is ranked No. 1 (in AAA) because they earned that ranking. We were the definite underdog but we believed in our kids. We earned this spot — Ringgold’s first trip to the semi-finals since 1987 — and we deserved to be in this game.”

Les Harvath is a freelance writer.

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