PITTSBURGH – When the Gateway Gators take the field before football games, they are greeted by the theme song from “Rocky.” And, like a wiley boxer, Gateway withstood punch after punch after punch from an efficient Pittsburgh Central Catholic offense.
But, in the end, Gateway couldn’t avoid the KO.
Central Catholic (7-0) tripled Gateway (4-3) in total offensive yardage and more than doubled the Gators in time of possession to win 21-7 in a WPIAL Thursday Night Showcase game at Carnegie Mellon University’s Gesling Field.
The loss for the Gators snapped a four-game winning streak, and extended a team losing streak to the Vikings that dates back to 1996. The three losses to date are just one fewer than the number of Ls the Gators have posted in the last three years. But Gator boss Terry Smith held an optimistic view for his football team.
“These are the games you learn from the most,” Smith said. “We got better tonight. But we’re going through growing pains with starting six sophomores. We’re trying to get better and minimize our mistakes.”
Gateway strung some positives together on its final two drives of the night, moving 55 yards and gaining four first downs on one and capping the other with the game’s final touchdown, a 1-yard plunge to paydirt from sophomore field general Thomas Woodson. The Woodson scoring run with 18 ticks left in the game capped a 6-play, 33-yard drive.
“You’re not going to hold Gateway down for 48 minutes,” said Central Catholic head coach Terry Totten, who this night won his 59th game since 2005. “It was a great test for us. I can’t say enough about Gateway’s program. You guys all know their recent history.”
With Damion Jones-Moore getting back into the swing of things after sitting out the Plum game with a groin injury, the Vikings shared the wealth offensively on the ground. Jones-Moore finished the game with 55 yards on 15 carries, but did not score a touchdown. Instead, junior Jason Luster got some chances to show what he could do, as fullback Brian Palermo is out for the remainder of the season.
Luster scored bookend touchdowns for Central Catholic on runs of 3 and 23 yards, finishing the night with 39 yards on seven totes. He gave Central Catholic leads of 7-0 and 21-0 in the first and third quarters, respectively. Junior quarterback Perry Hills scored the other Viking touchdown on a 4-yard run with 33 seconds left in the first half.
But Jones-Moore, Hills and Luster weren’t the only backs to contribute. Freshman Luigi Lista-Brinza finished with 60 rushing yards on 12 carries and caught a 22-yard pass, giving #22 230 yards rushing in the last two weeks combined.
“He came to summer camp and continued to work his way up the ranks,” Totten said of #22. “I thought he’d be an 8-10 touch player per game, but he’s proven he can come into the game for us at any time and be effective.”
When the dust settled, Central Catholic had piled up 169 rushing yards on 46 carries to Gateway’s 13 yards on 25 carries.
The bulk of Gateway’s 111 total yards of offense came from Woodson, who threw for 98 yards and added 47 yards on 14 carries.
“Our QB’s a heck of an athlete,” Smith said. “And he made some good reads (passing) tonight, but we’ve got to find some receivers who can catch the ball.”
Totten came away impressed with Gateway’s young field general.
“He’s a great athlete, a dual-threat,” Totten said.
Smith was equally impressed with Central Catholic’s football team.
“They’re a very good football team – they’re undefeated,” Smith said. “Whether they’re as good as their championship teams or not remains to be seen – history can’t be written until everything’s complete.”