Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Central Catholic Claims Title, 21-18 Vikings Defense Able to Hold off Comeback Try

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Central Catholic Claims Title, 21-18 Vikings Defense Able to Hold off Comeback Try

Article excerpt

HERSHEY, Pa. - On weekend nights in December, some attractions at Hersheypark are open. So with the faint sound of rides emanating from across the road, Central Catholic's defense took the amusement park theme to Parkland for most of the night in the PIAA Class AAAA championship at Hersheypark Stadium.

Parkland's offense often looked something like a bumper-car ride. Just about everywhere a Parkland offensive player turned, he bumped into a Central Catholic defender.

Not until two late touchdowns did the Parkland offense do much to make things interesting, but there was no knocking Central Catholic off the title tracks. The Vikings hung on for a 21-18 victory before a crowd of 3,770.

The victory made Central Catholic (15-1) the first WPIAL team to win four PIAA Class AAAA championships. The other titles came in 2007, 2004 and 1998.

Central Catholic's defensive performance was excellent until two late touchdown passes by Parkland quarterback Devante Cross to Zach Bross and Kenny Yeboah. But those scores were small blemishes on what was clearly another dominant performance in the PIAA playoffs for the Vikings, who allowed three touchdowns and 28 points in three PIAA games.

"This program is built on defense," said star defensive back Damar Hamlin.

The Vikings led, 21-0, after three quarters before Parkland's rally.

"I felt like this was one of our best defensive performances all year," said Rashad Wheeler, a senior tight end-defensive end for Central Catholic. "We were talking all week how it was the seniors' last time and how we didn't want to go out losing in a championship game like we did the last two years."

Until the last few minutes, all parts of Central Catholic's defense were impressive against Parkland (14-2), the District 11 champ from Allentown. The line was solid, the linebackers helped shut down the running game and a vaunted Vikings secondary, loaded with future major-college players, was excellent. …

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