Pittsburgh Central Catholic and Lower Dauphin entered the PIAA Class AAAA semifinal ranked No. 1 and No. 4 in the state, respectively, by the Pennsylvania Football News.
On the field, the gap between the two teams was much larger than that. Central Catholic punched its ticket to the state championship game next weekend in Hershey with a 45-0 win over Lower Dauphin Saturday afternoon at Mansion Park.
Central Catholic rolled up 24 second-quarter points for a commanding 31-0 halftime lead, and the Vikings defense dominated Lower Dauphin throughout. The Falcons managed just eight yards of total offense and one first down.
"They're a hungry bunch. They lowered they're pads and were flying to the ball," Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said. "We kind of knew who they wanted to go to and keyed in on that. We thought it would be a little tougher, but we were able to get out early on them. They don't like to throw too much."
The Vikings did most of their damage on the ground. Luigi Lista-Brinza chewed up yardage and clock with 106 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.
After Riley Redman scored on a 10-yard counter pitch play in the first quarter, Lista-Brinza found paydirt on the Central's next two drives.
The first was a 3-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. The second was a 19-yard run through the middle of the Falcons defense. The Vikings big, physical line opened up a lane, and Lista-Brinza sprinted through it for the score.
Mitchell MacZura's extra point gave the Vikings a 21-0 lead at that point. The senior placekicker then added to the Central lead with a 28-yard field goal on the team's next possession.
Vikings quarterback Joseph Costentino closed out the first half with a 27-yard strike to Shafer Swann in the back of the end zone with 47 seconds left on the clock.
"We ran into a buzzsaw," Lower Dauphin coach Rob Klock said. "That's a quality football team. We knew from the very first play with the hitting that was going on."
The mercy-rule took effect midway through the third quarter when Lista-Brinza scored on another 19-yard run through the middle of the Lower Dauphin defense.
John Petrishen capped the scoring with a 68-yard punt return. The junior wideout picked up a bouncing ball at the Central 32, sprinted towards the home sideline and followed the blocking all the way for the score.
"They've been stellar all year, but [Saturday] they turned it up a notch," Totten said.
Score By Quarters
Central Catholic7 24 14 0 - 45
Lower Dauphin0 0 0 0 - 0
CC-Redman 10 run (MacZura kick), 4:32.
CC-Lista-Brinza 3 run (MacZura kick), 11:54.
CC-Lista-Brinza 19 run (MacZura kick), 7:51.
CC-MacZura 28 field goal, 2:56.
CC-Swann 27 pass from Costentino (MacZura kick), :47.
CC-Lista-Brinza 19 run (MacZura kick), 8:36.
CC-Petrishen 68 punt return (MacZura kick), 5:36.
RUSHING: Lower Dauphin-Spencer 13-18, Klock 1-(-4), Yentsch 4-(-2), Cruz 2-(-2), Zeiders 1-(-1), Domovich 1-(-6), Ware 2-0. Central Catholic-Lista-Brinza 18-106, Faloon 5-35, Redman 4-22, Costentino 4-34, Farina 1-2, Foster 5-0, Totten 3-4, George 2-12, TEAM 3-(-3).
PASSING: Lower Dauphin-Spencer 1-5-0-0, Dorwart 0-1-1-0, Shellenberger 0-6-0-0, Klock 1-1-0-5. Central Catholic-Costentino 4-11-0-66, Adomitis 0-0-0-0, Navarro 0-0-0-0.
RECEIVING: Lower Dauphin-Domovich 1-0, Klock 1-5. Central Catholic-Petrishen 1-11, Sutherland 2-28, Swann 1-27.
INTERCEPTIONS: Central Catholic-Sutherland.