No one in local high school football has a richer tradition than Allentown Central Catholic.
The Vikings have won three PIAA titles and 13 district championships, all since 1991, and the foundation of that success has been the program’s ability to run the ball.
Colin McDermott, Rashonn Drayton, Komlan Lonergan, Jose Delgado, Mike Cerimele, Darnell Farrell, Jayden Williams… the list of quality running backs goes on and on. Even Brendan Nosovitch, the program’s all-time leading passer with 9,249 yards, was an excellent rusher.
In November 2012, McDermott set the league and school single-game rushing record, 422 yards, in a 42–7 win over Bethlehem Catholic.
A decade later, the Vikings can run the ball again as they prepare to face the Golden Hawks, but to beat Becahi and claim the third straight District 11 4A program title, they may need to get airborne. .
Led by linebacker Izzy Ramos and Robert Williams, Becahi has been stingy against the rush for most of the season.
Becahi did a good job holding off the ACCHS in a 14-13 overtime win on Oct. 28.
But in a 42-7 rout of Bangor, the Vikings showcased a powerful passing offense that provided balance to a solid running game led by Caiden Shaffer and Nathan Schultz. Center senior quarterback Tamlin Ferguson threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns. Griffin Patridge caught three passes for 144 yards, all for scoring. Jareel Calhoun had 11 catches for 89 yards.
Prior to the game, the ACCHS quarterbacks had thrown for 893 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games.
“Our O-line gave Tamlin a lot of time and they protected him well,” said Patridge, who had just 10 catches for 69 yards before the game. “Tamlin threw a bunch of punches at me. He hit me on my roads. Even on the long end [a 74-yarder] Jareel was blocking for me. So it wasn’t just me. It was the whole team. »
Central threw 20 times and ran 21 times against Bangor. Before that, the Vikings had a 3-1 run-to-pass ratio.
“It’s nice to have a bunch of guns and to be able to spread the ball,” Ferguson said. “It’s important to have a balance because teams can’t load the box or play you one way. They have to worry about both, and that’s huge.
Becahi’s defense, however, will present a greater challenge.
“They’re a good team and we just have to get ready to play,” Ferguson said. “Obviously it’s a lot of fun playing for the district championship, but we have a lot of work to do this week.”
Central coach Tim McGorry, who was the quarterback for Central’s state title team in 1998 and another PIAA champion’s coaching staff in 2010, said it was important to be able to pass as well as run.
“It’s not a big blow for Tamlin, but he can’t throw the ball all spring and summer because he’s playing baseball everywhere,” McGorry said. “But we saw how productive Tamlin was at quarterback last year. He struggled to throw the ball in training camp and then as he got a lot more reps he started throwing the ball really well and we brought him in.
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Besides McGorry, Central’s coaching staff includes two guys who have produced many quality quarterbacks over the years in Dan Kendra and Rob Melosky. Kendra was a record-breaking quarterback in ACCHS in the 1970s and played college football for Bobby Bowden in West Virginia.
Then he carved out a niche on Becahi’s staff for decades, producing many of the area’s top pitchers, including his son, Dan Kendra III, a Parade All-American who played for Bowden at Florida State.
Melosky was also a high school and college quarterback and coached a state championship team in Parkland and a league and district champion in Nazareth.
“We’re really lucky to have great coaches on this; guys who have been through this before,” McGorry said.
As seniors, Patridge and Ferguson have been in Central long enough to understand the lore and know that after beating Northwestern Lehigh for district gold for the past two years, a championship win over rival Becahi would still be more special.
“It’s rare to get a chance in sport and now we have a second chance against Becahi,” Patridge said. “If you go down to Rockne Hall and look at all the banners on the wall, it’s always good to know that you were part of some of those banners. We just need a good week of training and we’ll be ready.
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