Defense carries Central Catholic to PIAA quarterfinal win over State College |
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Chris Harlan
Central Catholic's Jacob McKee tries to elude State College's Nathan King during their PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinal game Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, at Fox Chapel High School. Central Catholic won 19-3.

With a defense like this, two touchdowns were plenty.

Central Catholic allowed just 1 yard in the first half and had three interceptions in Friday night’s 19-3 victory over State College in a PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinal, a dominant defensive effort that allowed its offense to eat away yards and minutes with a steady ground attack.

Central rushed for 215 yards on 51 carries, with 99 yards from senior tailback Ronnie Jones. But points were hard to come by. Vinny Emanuele had a 4-yard touchdown run 39 seconds before halftime, and quarterback Troy Fisher ran in from 2 yards late in the fourth.

Two field goals by Jake Rocchi supplied the other six points.

“I hope that we get a little bit more consistency on offense,” Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. “Our running game is coming around late in every game. You’ve got to credit our defense for holding in there until (the offense) got it going. But they got it going late.”

Bricen Garner intercepted two passes, Jones picked off another and David Adams and David Green had sacks in a win that carries Central Catholic (13-1) into the PIAA semifinals for the second time in three seasons.

“They’re extremely talented,” State College coach Matt Lintal said. “They have skill guys everywhere. They’re frustrating.”

State College (9-4) was the District 6 champion. The Little Lions had a 1,000-yard rusher in the backfield, but Central Catholic clogged the middle to hold senior Jordan Misher to 69 yards on 20 carries. State College’s offense finished with 112 yards.

State College quarterback Drew Friberg completed 7 of 16 passes for 58 yards and two interceptions. The team’s third interception came on a fake punt.

“We loaded up in the box, and (defensive coordinator Dave Fleming) had a great plan to take away that inside zone play,” Totten said. “We thought we could get after the passer with an inside blitz and that was working.”

But Central Catholic’s quarterback also was under pressure. Fisher, who completed 10 of 16 throws for 61 yards, was sacked twice. A solid State College defensive line cause trouble for Central.

“That was a little learning experience going against that: a big man running at you every single time,” Fisher said. “It speeds up your thinking. I talked to coach in the locker room, and he just said calm down. Just believe in yourself, and believe in the plays and it will be there.”

With 2:43 left in the fourth, Central secured the win with an 11-play, 61-yard touchdown drive. Fisher faked a handoff left and rolled right for a 2-yard touchdown run. That touchdown drive included a converted fourth-and-1.

Central Catholic converted only 6 of 16 third downs, but three of them came on its first touchdown drive. The 11-play, 51-yard drive ended when Emanuele took a handoff 4 yards around left tackle just before halftime. But to reach the end zone, the Vikings converted third-and-1, third-and-9 and third-and-10.

Central Catholic led 10-0 at halftime.

“We just played to our strength,” Fisher said. “We ran the ball a lot, and when we needed to throw we were able to complete some passes late. This (State College) team is an amazing team. There’s no doubt about that.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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