WHITEHALL — The Seneca Valley football team had 42 days between their first meeting with Central Catholic and their WPIAL Class 6A semifinal playoff game Friday at Baldwin High School.
The third-seeded Raiders finished more drives in the rematch. But Seneca Valley endured a similar first-quarter nightmare.
The Raiders committed two turnovers and spotted Central Catholic a 21-point lead before losing 42-21.
Seneca Valley coach Ron Butschle said they spent a lot of time during their bye week working on protecting the ball.
“Believe it or not, we worked on turnovers, on hanging onto the football for two weeks,” Butschle said. “We dropped the ball a couple times in the first quarter, but going for it on fourth-and-one was an easy decision. It was the semifinals and nobody on God's green Earth picked us to win this game.”
In their first meeting, the Vikings built a 28-0 lead in the first quarter before winning 35-0.
Central Catholic nearly equaled the feat.
The Raiders' first turnover came on their first drive. Seneca Valley was already trailing 7-0 after the Vikings (9-2) ended their opening possession with a 11-yard touchdown catch by Vernon Settles on a pass from Payton Wehner.
The Raiders (8-4) lost a fumble on a fourth-and-one play from their own 25. Central Catholic would double their lead four plays later when Payton Wehner scored on a 1-yard run.
The Vikings stopped Seneca Valley's next drive when Xavier Thomas intercepted a pass from Sean O'Shea. Thomas also intercepted a pass from Raiders quarterback Graham Hancox in their first meeting.
Central Catholic coach Terry Totten noticed the similarities.
“It unfolded that way,” Totten said. “They hung in there for a while, so give them credit, too. We were a lot more active on defense tonight then we have been lately.”
Following Thomas' interception, the Vikings scored a bizarre touchdown to surge ahead 21-0. Wehner found Josh Altsman for a 32-yard pass on a fake field goal. Altsman was hit at the 1-yard line and fumbled in the end zone. David Hinish recovered for the Central Catholic touchdown.
Nolan Dworek got Seneca Valley on the board with a 9-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The Raiders went into halftime trailing 28-7.
Seneca Valley responded with a long drive to open the half where offensive lineman Devin Webb caught a 5-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead in half.
Webb said the Raiders didn't change anything they were doing as they tried to battle out of the deficit.
“We were the same team and same people,” Webb said. “We had to work hard and execute.”
Wyatt Craver led Seneca Valley with 77 rushing yards. O'Shea, who scored the Raiders' final touchdown on 9-yard run in the fourth quarter, rushed for 60 and passed for 127.
Seneca Valley wouldn't get any closer than 14 as Central Catholic running back JD Younger, who had a game-high 93 yards rushing on six carries, scored on touchdown runs of 9 and 61 yards in the third quarter to stretch the lead to 42-14.
Butschle knows that his kids didn't leave anything on the field. The Raiders used all their resources to try to avoid a repeat result.
“Other than being with my family, being with these guys every day is the most fun I've ever had,” Butschle said. “These guys are great, the coaches are great, the kids are great. We just emptied the tank. We wanted to empty the tank and see where it took us.”
Seneca Valley 0 7 7 7 — 21
Central Catholic 21 7 14 0 — 42
CC — Vernon Settles 11 pass from Payton Wehner (Matthew Chearer kick), 6:54
CC — Wehner 1 run (Schearer kick), 3:35
CC — Donovan Hinish fumble recovery in end zone (Schearer kick), :59
SV — Nolan Dworek 9 run (Camden Bush kick), 9:14
CC — Josh Altsman 19 pass from Wehner (Schearer kick), 5:23
SV — Devin Webb 5 pass from Sean O'Shea (Bush kick), 6:26
CC — JD Younger 9 run (Schearer kick), 1:56
CC — Younger 61 run (Schearer kick), :18
SV — O'Shea 9 run (Bush kick), 1:42
Rushing: Seneca Valley, Wyatt Craver 13-77, Sean O'Shea 7-60, Nolan Dworek 14-48, Brandon Ross 2-0. Central Catholic, JD Younger 6-93, Gannon Carothers 11-61, Antonio Pitts 11-41, Payton Wehner 11-33.
Passing: Seneca Valley, Sean O'Shea 18-27-120-1, Brandon Ross 0-2-0-1. Central Catholic, Payton Wehner 11-14-131-0.
Receiving: Seneca Valley, Brandon Ross 8-54, Luke Lawson 4-35, Nolan Dworek 2-26, Chris D'Appalonia 2-17, Devin Webb 1-5, Jacob Rape 1-3. Central Catholic, Josh Altsman 3-59, Gannon Carothers 3-42, Brandon Jackson 4-21, Vernon Settles 1-11, Peter Gonzalez 1-11.