PITTSBURGH – During the postgame press conference, Central Valley sophomore Robert Foster took a seat behind head coach Mark Lyons, somewhat hidden from view.
But on the Heinz Field surface, Foster was front and center for the Warriors, helping the Carolina blue and white to etch its program in history.
Central Valley (10-3) scored 24 unanswered points to become the WPIAL’s first merged football program since Sto-Rox in 1966 to win a championship, defeating Montour (12-1) 24-7 in the AAA title game. The Warriors used two big touchdowns from Foster to help key the effort, as well as a stout defensive performance that harrassed Spartan field general Dillon Buechel all game long.
“(When we started the season) the message was simply, ‘Whatever we do will be etched in stone,’” said Lyons. “I was on the lines for the first loss, the first victory, the first shutout. And I’m happy that we also have the first WPIAL championship.
“It’s a proud opportunity to bring back the WPIAL football championship to the Central Valley community,” Lyons continued.
Central Valley, which claims a Monaca address, is a first year program merged between the former Monaca and Center high schools. And Lyons formerly served as the head coach of the Monaca Indians, guiding the red and blue to WPIAL title game appearances in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
The fourth try was the charm.
And the Warriors super speedster of a sophomore, Foster, was, for lack of a better term, ubiquitous.
Foster carried the ball, completed a 17-yard pass on a faked punt, caught two passes and also played a role on special teams, returning kicks and punts. He made a trio of game-changing plays – a 54-yard run, a 35-yard punt return for touchdown and a 70-yard reception for a touchdown on a pass from junior Matt Bradford.
In all, Foster ran for 56 yards, threw for 17 and had 75 receiving yards. Of Central Valley’s 66 points scored the last two weeks, Foster has scored 36 of them.
On the punt return for a touchdown, which broke a 7-7 tie with 1:50 left in the first half, the soft-spoken Foster summed it up in one sentence.
“I just did what I had to do,” Foster said.
And that simple modus operandi – just doing what needed to be done – helped the Warriors reach the pinnacle of the WPIAL.
For the second time in four years, Montour was on the short end.
“We got the (first) score and then they went down and got that 54-yard run and stole the momentum,” said Spartan head coach Lou Cerro. “Then it snowballed a little bit.”
Junior feature back Julian Durden broke the goose eggs on the scoreboard with a 24-yard run just 44 seconds into the second quarter, and the black and yellow had a 7-0 lead. And after Foster hit the 54-yard run, Bradford was intercepted in the end zone by the Spartans’ Aaron Reed.
And that’s when things stopped going well for Montour. Bradford answered the Spartan touchdown with a 1-yard scoring run of his own with 3:29 left in the half. Foster’s punt return, fielded in stride on a single bounce, even further tilted the momentum to CV.
Foster’s second touchdown nailed Montour’s coffin shut.
On a play Lyons said the Warriors installed Thursday during practice, Bradford hit a streaking Foster down the far sideline for a 70-yard dagger of a touchdown that pushed CV’s lead to 21-7. Greg Nicastro capped the Warriors’ scoring with a 30-yard field goal.
The Warriors’ defense stifled Montour’s offense in the third quarter, limiting the Spartans to a paltry 32 yards in the period. Montour finished with 297 yards for the game and 18 first downs and Durden ran for 158 yards in the game, but Montour had three costly turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) and a turnover on downs after driving to the CV 14-yard line. Buechel (19-of-36, 147 yards, 2 INT) was sacked on 4th and 13 for a 10-yard loss.
Bradford finished 2-of-4 passing for 75 yards. Aaron Law ran for a team-high 75 yards on just three carries, and Tre Crumpton added 13 yards on seven carries for the Warriors.
Despite the result, Cerro said he wouldn’t change anything.
“They got the job done tonight and we didn’t,” Cerro said.
“The Parkway’s the best conference in the WPIAL…I don’t care what anybody says,” Cerro added.