The Morning Call

From rock bot­tom to solid gold

Cen­tral Catholic foot­ball is back in cham­pi­onship form af­ter go­ing 3-8 in 2018

- By Keith Groller

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.”

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