It was a disappointing finish to the 2018 season for Pittsburgh Central Catholic. They lost a close one to Seneca Valley in the WPIAL 6A Quarterfinals, 15-14. Seneca Valley overcame a 14-point deficit to pull off the upset. This was the first time Central Catholic lost to them since 2012.
Coach Terry Totten has brought home a winning culture to his alma mater and they will definitely rebound in 2019. His team will be hungry and on a mission this year. He has used nearly 40 years of coaching to try and perfect his trade and he has done that at Central Catholic. The Vikings have won state titles in 2014, 2007, 2004, and they also appeared in the state championship game in 2016 and 2013.
The Vikings lost several key players from the 2019 recruiting class. Defensive end Brian Dallas signed with Kent State, Dominic Dobson is attending Columbia, Gavin Thomson stays home and will attend the University of Pittsburgh, and Connor Rust is playing at Mercyhurst.
The team also lost two class of 2020 defensive backs. Kyros Thorpe and Theo Newhouse were expected to be leaders in the secondary and they both transferred to Avonworth high school. Kenneth Blake a 2021 prospect did well as a sophomore and transferred to Kiski Area high school.
An offense that only averaged 21.1 points per game last season will be looking to improve. This was their lowest points per game average in a season since Totten took over in 2005. This is a new season and the Vikings have a lot of talent returning. There should be a big spike in their offense in 2019.
Everything starts with the physical play of the offensive line in the trenches. They must win the battle at the line of scrimmage and Central Catholic has the bigs returning up front that can make this happen.
Leading the way for the Vikings is 6’4, 280-pound senior Thomas Hartnett. Harnett is a strong athletic center that has picked up several Division 1 offers during the offseason. Liam Kearney (6’3 265) played left tackle last season and excelled as a run blocker and pass protector. Matt Altsman (6’1 250) is the left guard that is athletic pulling and he loves to finish. Adam Kozera (6’2 285) is a 2-way player that could play more offense this season in addition to being a defensive tackle.
The Central Catholic running backs comprise one of the deepest position groups on the team. They were hurt with injuries last season but they are all ready to go this year. Dontre Jones (5’8 207), Edward Tillman (5’8 165), and JD Younger (5’10 185) are three backs that can make plays, control the clock, and move the chains. Gus Sunseri (6’0 205) is a two-way player that also helped in the running game last year as a running back and as a quarterback that mainly ran the wildcat. They are loaded at this position and have a lot of options to keep everyone fresh and healthy.
Sharod Lindsey (6’4 190), Eric Benson (6’2 195), and Luke Robson (6’0 170) are all receivers that started and played a lot last season. Lindsey is a possession type receiver that has excellent size and is also a huge asset as a downfield blocker in the run game. Benson’s role in the offense will increase this year and he will be one of their go to options in the passing game. Robson missed 8 games last season, but is a huge weapon as a slot receiver and return man on special teams. Karson Kennedy (6’1 225) is the starting tight end. He caught a few balls last season and is an outstanding run blocker.
Dominic Pieto is a 6’0 185-pound dual-threat quarterback that will likely be the starter. As he enters his senior season, Pieto hopes to build on the experience he had last year. He will have all the pieces around him to help him perform at a high level.
The Central Catholic defensive line is where this team truly shines. Defensive end Aaron “AJ” Beatty (6’5, 250) had 41 D-I offers before he committed to the University of North Carolina. Junior Elliot Donald (6’3, 225) joins him with 17 D-I offers and the twins, seniors A’meer (6’4, 280) and A’maar (6’3, 272) Allen combine for 24 D-I offers in a line that should give opponents nightmares. They will also have depth with Kozera as a defensive tackle. He would start for most high schools and has talent. This is hands down the best front 4 in the state.
At the second level, Gus Sunseri (6’0 205), Luke Harris (6’1 220), and Eric Benson (6’2 195) are all linebackers that have size, speed, and are physical. Sunseri had 119 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks last year. Harris had 105 total tackles and 4 sacks. Karson Kennedy may see some time at linebacker and could be another important piece to add strength to the defense.
The secondary is thin because of a couple of transfers but Jaishon Hawkins, a 6’1 170-pound senior free safety is back and will lead the defensive backs. He tallied 40 tackles and had 3 interceptions as a junior and is flying under the radar. Jahrale Dennis (5’10 175) will see a lot of action as a safety during his junior season and is strong against the run. Bo Waddell (5’9 150) and Keith Cushenberry (5’10 155) are two class of 2022 defensive backs that will contribute.
The Vikings will start the season off with a chance to redeem themselves playing Seneca Valley in week 1 and North Allegheny in week 2. Seneca Valley ended their season short last year. North Allegheny beat the Vikings 27-3 last year and finished with a 10-1 overall recorded. Both of these games will be intense and with a playoff type atmosphere. Their rival game against Pine-Richland will be in week 6 on September 27. Every game in the WPIAL will be a challenge, but if they can start out strong going 2-0, the sky will be the limit for this team.
Central Catholic has had a long time to think about their last game against Seneca Valley and the bad feeling that it left. This team knows they have what it takes and will try and make a statement in 2019.
The Vikings defensive front 4 are a special group. AJ Beatty, Elliot Donald, and the Allen twins should dominate opposing fronts and mask an inexperienced secondary. Sunseri and Harris will be flying all over the field at linebacker.
The offensive line and running backs will do extremely well and that will be their bread and butter this year. They want to play physical and wear opponents down. Dontre Jones is expected to have a breakout year and is going to be one of the top offensive weapons in the WPIAL. If they can be consistent in the passing game, this team will be playing all the way to the end for another ring.