Central Catholic, North Catholic Enjoyed Great Rivalry
Tribune-Review, The, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
One of the best football rivalries in WPIAL history took place between two schools that weren't even WPIAL members at the time the rivalry started.
The Central Catholic-North Catholic rivalry started in 1942, long before both schools were admitted to the WPIAL in 1975. But no matter if it was part of the old Pittsburgh Area Catholic League or the WPIAL, the annual battle between the Vikings and the Trojans was the highlight of the season for many players and fans.
One person who experienced the rivalry first hand is current Penn Hills coach Neil Gordon, a member of Central's 1964 undefeated team.
"I would be hard-pressed to try and figure out a bigger rivalry unless you go back to the Ambridge-Aliquippa rivalry or the New Castle-Butler," Gordon said. "We'd play at South Stadium, now called Cupples Stadium, and the place was filled. Plus, they'd be four or five deep on the bridge and ramp overlooking the stadium."
Besides bragging rights, the game was huge in the standings. Between 1942-1958, the winner of the Central Catholic-North Catholic game was the conference champion. Famous people were also part of the rivalry, Steelers chairman and NFL Hall of Fame member Dan Rooney quarterbacked North in 1949.
Nick Skorich coached Central in the early 1950's, and he later became Cleveland Browns coach and was considered, along with Joe Paterno, for the Steelers' job that went to Chuck Noll.
After joining the WPIAL, both schools ordinarily played on opening night. If not, the game took place whenever the schools could get together. In 1978, Central was already in the playoffs, but played North between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs, despite the risk of injury to a player for the playoffs.
The annual get-together continued until 2001. Central had won 11 of 13 years, but North wanted to continue the rivalry while Central decided to move on.
"There were blue-collar players who hit hard; now, Central has rivals like Wooodland Hills and Penn Hills, but I don't believe kids from North Catholic can experience a rivalry today like the one with Central," said Gordon, who grew up in the Point Breeze section of Pittsburgh. …