The Morning Call
From rock bottom to solid gold
Central Catholic football is back in championship form after going 3-8 in 2018
Mike Cerimele didn’t like what he saw.
The former Allentown Central Catholic football stand out, who was a member of the Vikings’ first state championship team in 1993 en route to stops at Penn State and the NFL, winced at theme re memory of how the 2018 season ended for his alma mater.
A dismal 3-8 campaign concluded with six consecutive losses, the last five coming by scores of 49-14, 32-14,42-17,59-14 a nd 50-13. The final shellacking was administered by Northwestern Le high in the District 11 4Aquarterfinals.
“It’s emotional for me because I love this program so much ,” Ce rime le said .“Where it was… I didn’ t like it at all. I will always remember that group of guys that established this program by beating Lehighton in 1991 for the first district championship. There was a lot good history after that. Andthen it dropped off.”
But the Vikings are now back as one of the area’s elite in football.
On Thursday night, they completed their two-year turnaround with a resounding 35-6 District 11 Class 4A championship win over the same Northwestern program that provided the punishment 24 months earlier.
Central scored touchdown son its first five possession sand completed a 6-2 season with its 12 th district title, but first since 2012.
Cerimele, now a strength and conditioning coach, wiped a few tears as he talked about his admiration for the CCHS seniors who celebrated on the field at Whitehall High School.
“These guys can now have their names etched in Central Catholic history,” Cerimele said. “The seniors came in and really did a phenomenal job. They answered the challenge. They came together in a special way and they revitalized this program and madeit rise from the ashes.”
Ce rime le wanted Tim M cG or ry, the quarter back on the 1998 state title team, to come back and become the Vikings head coach after he was the offensive coordinator on Central’s 2010 state champs and then made college coaching stops at Moravian and Lehigh.
M cG or ry restored the Vikings’ commitment to the weight room, which was always at the foundation of the program’s success.
The brute strength that came from hard work was never more evident than in the game against Northwestern as Central’s offensive and defensive lines controlled the trenches, especially on offense where the Vikings rolled to 358 yards, 268 on the ground.
Jay den Williams, who went over 2,000 yards rushing in his career in last week’ s semi final win over Bethlehem Catholic, went over 1,000 on the season with a 182-yard performance on just 14 carries. He scored a pair of rushing touchdowns as did quarterback Matt Rauscher, who couldn’t have picked a better way to end his high school career.
Rauscher grew up in the Northwestern Lehigh community, and his departure for Central Catholic was not without some tension.
As a sophomore, Ra us cher took the lopsided loss to the Tigers in 2018 as hard as anyone, watching Northwestern build a 40-0 lead in New Tripoli.
Twoyears later, everything was totally different. “It was obviously a real emotional game for me and to come out and get a win against them means a lot,” the Lehigh-bound QB said .“They are really wellcoached and have a lot of good players over there. We were expecting a better game, but we really worked hard all year to make this happen. We’ re finally district champions.”
Rauscher, like Williams, gave credit to the O-line.
“Up front, the guys did amazing,” he said. “When you can give the ball to a guy whocanrunlike Jayden Williams, big plays are going to happen. We figured if they couldn’t stop the run, we’d just keep doing it.”
Williams has the names of the offensive linemen memorized, so they are included in any interview he does.
“Mike McCambridge, David Platt, AJ Colon, John Fifi eld,JohnnyG an ch oso,C hr isPe zan dour tight end, Christian Spugnardi, they makeit happen,” Williams said.
McGorry also said it starts upfront.
“We’re probably the smallest group in our league up front,” he said. “We tell our kids that size doesn’t matter. Physicality doesn’t equal size. You have to make a choice to be physical. Our guys did a great job of making that choice on every snap tonight.”
McGorry said he hopes the seniors set the bar for what’s to come.
“We have over 20 of them and you just hope the younger guys see whatthis is all about andhowthese seniors went about their work,” McGorry said. “And I don’ t want to forget our seniors from last year either. It was a culture shock when we got here before last season. Those kids had seen the worst and they saw what was in front of them. They could have went into the tank and quit, but they bought in.”
What a difference a decade makes
On Nov. 19, 2010, Central Catholic beat Southern Lehigh 41-10 for the District 11 3A title.
John Toman was the Spartans head coach that night.
In his new role as quarterbacks coach for the Vikings, To man obviously liked the results of Nov .19, 2020, muchbetter.
His knowledge of the Northwestern defense after going against the Tigers for 14 seasons as an opposing coach in the Colonial League was beneficial in Central’s offensive game plan.
“Coach[ Josh} Snyder does a real good job at Northwestern and he always throws a lot at you ,” To man said. “But our kids handled it. They’re great kids.”
Toman said he had the privilege of coaching numerous good quarterbacks at Southern Lehigh, where he went 108-54 before resigning after last season. He said Rauscher belongs with the best of them.
“He was awesome and I am happy he’s going to play at Lehigh because I want to go over there and watch him,” Toman said. “I’m sure he’s going to do a lot of great things there.”
Toman said the big thing with Rauscher was to emphasize to stay within himself.
“I didn’t want him to worry about whowere playing,” Toman said. “Some of the other coaches said Matt is a little different when Central is playing Northwestern, but I made sure we worked on it and he was ready to go and he was. He has a lot of talent around him and he didn’t have to do anything more than he did tonight. He completed almost every pass and he ran the ball hard.”
Toman said he loved being back in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference after playing at Dieruff and coaching at Parkland before getting the Southern Lehigh job.
McGorry said he learned from his Central coach, Jim Morgans, that the more ex-head coaches you bring into the program, the better your staff will be.
“Any time you can hire a former head coach, good things are going to happen,” he said. “John’s been great for us in terms of talking us through some things. Last year maybe we attacked some things the wrong way. He has done a real good job.”