Penn Hills falls from ranks of unbeaten
Central Catholic had to scrap its original offensive gameplan when its star tailback was sidelined with an ankle injury and its primary receiver was blanketed in short coverage.
The Vikings have multiple options, however, and had 5-foot-9 quarterback Bob Tudi throw high passes to 6-4 tight end Steve Buches. It was a simple strategy that mirrored the Quad East conference playoff picture.
Up for grabs.
Tudi completed 15 of 26 passes for 216 yards, including nine to Buches for 153 yards and a touchdown, to lead Central to a 28-14 victory over previously undefeated Penn Hills Saturday afternoon at West Mifflin’s Titans Stadium.
‘I’ll take all 5-9 of him against any quarterback in the WPIAL right now,’ Central Catholic coach Art Walker Jr. said of the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Tudi. ‘They took Drew (Garcia) away. When you do that, there’s a mismatch somewhere. It was with Steve. We’ll take that any time.’
Central (6-1, 4-1) was forced to play without leading rusher Andrew Johnson, who injured his ankle in practice. The Vikings turned to junior Ryan Fehl, who responded with a valiant effort in gaining a game-high 51 yards on 12 carries.
Penn Hills (6-1, 3-1) couldn’t get workhorse Brandon Anderson started, and he finished with 50 yards on 20 carries. Anderson contributed in other ways, scoring on an 86-yard kickoff return for a 7-3 lead in the first quarter and on a 1-yard run in the second for a 14-6 halftime lead.
Field goals of 33 and 29 yards by sophomore Adam Sciulli were the only points Central scored in the first half, but the Vikings started the third quarter with a 13-play, 66-yard scoring drive. It appeared to stall on a fourth-and-2 at the Penn Hills 46, but the Indians were called for lining up offsides.
It was one of many costly mistakes by Penn Hills. Central responded with a pair of third-down conversions that led to Nic SanDoval’s 4-yard touchdown run. Central went for a two-point conversion, which Tudi completed with a pass to Garcia to tie the game, 14-14, at 7:47 of the third quarter.
‘There was no doubt we were going for two,’ Walker said. ‘I had that play ready at halftime. When that happened, it helped our confidence level.’
Penn Hills had turnovers on its next two possessions, as Anderson fumbled and sophomore Anthony Morelli (11 of 24 for 166 yards) threw an interception. Compounding those problems was the Indians’ propensity for getting penalties at critical moments, including twice having 12 players on the field.
‘Central Catholic has the ability to bring out the worst in us,’ Penn Hills coach Neil Gordon said. ‘I’m embarrassed. If I’m sitting in the stands watching Penn Hills play, I’m wondering, ‘Doesn’t anybody coach them?’|’
Tudi tossed a 22-yarder to Buches to set up their 15-yard scoring play for a 21-14 lead. Then Buches leapt over Penn Hills’ Ralph Festa for a 30-yarder that set up Tudi’s 1-yard scoring run for a 28-14 lead.
‘We came in thinking we were going to throw,’ Tudi said. ‘Buches really stepped it up. He just got open on their defense. I just threw it up to him a few times, and he made me look good.’
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review sports columnist. You can contact Kevin by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .