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 a great runner.
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 win the program’s third consecutive District 11 4A title, they might have to go to the air.
Led by linebacker Izzy Ramos and and Robert Williams, Becahi has been stingy against the rush most of the season.
Becahi did a good job of holding down ACCHS in a 14-13 overtime win Oct. 28.
But in a 42-7 rout of Bangor, the Vikings showcased a potent passing attack that offered balance to a strong running game led by Caiden Shaffer and Nathan Schultz. Central senior quarterback Tamlin Ferguson threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns. Griffin Patridge caught three passes for 144 yards, all for scores. Jareel Calhoun had 11 catches for 89 yards.
Before the game, ACCHS quarterbacks had thrown for 893 yards and four TDs in 10 games.
“Our O-line gave Tamlin lots of time and they protected him well,” said Patridge, who had just 10 catches for 69 yards entering the game. “Tamlin threw a bunch of strikes to me. He hit me on my routes. Even on the long one at the end [a 74-yarder] Jareel was downfield 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, Vikings had a 3-1 run-pass ratio.
“It’s nice to have a bunch of weapons and be able to spread the ball around,” Ferguson said. “To have balance is important because then teams can’t load the box or play you just 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 come ready to play,” Ferguson said. “It’s obviously a lot of fun to be playing for the district championship, but we have a lot of work to do this week.”
Central coach Tim McGorry, who was the quarterback on Central’s 1998 state title team and on the coaching staff on another PIAA champion in 2010, said it’s important to be able to pass as well as run.
“It’s not a knock on Tamlin, but he doesn’t get to throw the ball all spring and summer because he’s playing baseball all over the place,” McGorry said. “But we saw how productive Tamlin was at quarterback last year. He struggled throwing the ball in training camp and then as he got a lot more reps he started throwing the ball really well and we got him in there.”
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Besides McGorry, Central’s coaching staff features two guys who have groomed many quality quarterbacks over the years in Dan Kendra and Rob Melosky. Kendra was a record-breaking quarterback at ACCHS in the 1970s and played college football for Bobby Bowden at West Virginia.
Then he carved his niche on the Becahi staff for decades, producing many of the area’s best throwers, 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 at Parkland and a league and district champ at Nazareth.
“We are really lucky to have great coaches on this stuff; guys who have been through this before,” McGorry said.
As seniors, Patridge and Ferguson have been around Central long enough to understand the tradition and know that after beating Northwestern Lehigh for the district gold the past two years, a championship win over rival Becahi would be even more special.
“It’s rare to get a chance in sports and now we have a second chance against Becahi,” Patridge said. “If you go down to Rockne Hall and look around at all of the banners on the wall, it’s always great to know you were a part of some of those banners. We just need a good week of practice and we’ll be ready.”
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