Joint forces strike for Central Valley
Of the eight teams that will be at Heinz Field for Saturday’s WPIAL football championship games, Central Valley took perhaps the most likely route to the North Shore. The school didn’t even exist a year ago.
Monaca and Center had good players returning, but just how effectively that talent could be molded into one unit was a legitimate concern.
The Warriors (9-3) reached Heinz Field with a 42-24 victory over perennial contender Thomas Jefferson last week. Tomorrow, Central Valley faces fellow Parkway Conference squad Montour (12-0) at 4:30 p.m. in the Class AAA final. The Warriors fell to Montour, 12-7, in the regular season.
Central Valley avoided the growing pains that other merger schools endured.
In 1967, when New Kensington and Arnold high schools consolidated, coach Gene Collodi had to break up fights at practice. In 1995, 26 years after East Deer and West Deer high schools merged, some Deer Lakes Little League volunteers refused to prepare a West Deer ballfield for a neutral-site tournament game when they found out an East Deer team was competing.
No such problems have surfaced at Central Valley.
“It’s great from our perspective. It’s important that the students have brought an energy to this merger,” said Central Valley Superintendent Daniel Matsook, a former football coach at Rochester and Beaver Falls.
“Before the season, the seniors were determined to make this work,” said coach Mark Lyons, who took Monaca to the WPIAL Class A final three times.
The adults caught the energy, too, nearly filling the visitor’s side of North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium against Thomas Jefferson.
“Our fans travel well, and they love to tailgate before the game,” Lyons said with a laugh.
As the No. 4 team out of the tough Parkway, Central Valley opened the playoffs with a 21-13 victory at previously undefeated Ringgold. The Warriors followed with a 16-0 shutout of Knoch — which had set a school single-season scoring record — before taking on Thomas Jefferson.
Sophomore Robert Foster scored four touchdowns against the Jaguars, including three on receptions. The other came on a stellar 80-yard run: He spun around two defenders at the line of scrimmage, then broke loose.
“It’s a blessing — that’s all it is,” he said. “We just wanted to play our hearts out and get to Heinz.”