by Smokin’ Jim Frazier
For New Pittsburgh Courier
In boxing they say to beat the champ you have to knock him out. East Allegheny (5-3) had Greensburg Central Catholic (8-0), the defending WPIAL champions, on the ropes but failed to deliver the fatal dagger.
The Wildcats weren’t very hospitable as senior night hosts to the visiting Centurions in the first half of their Interstate Conference showdown Friday night.
Greensburg Central Catholic was seeking their fourth shutout in eight games, but found themselves down 13-0 early in the first quarter. East Allegheny jumped out to a 6-0 lead when quarterback Jody Harris threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Shawn Adair. Harris, who rushed for over 100 yards and passed for over 100 yards, extended the Wildcats first quarter lead to 13-0 when he threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Deonte Allen.
The Wildcats gladly accepted five turnover gifts from GCC and two personal fouls in one of the hardest hitting games ever in the WPIAL, a contest that knocked four Centurions players out of the game because of injuries.
The NFL’s stance against helmet-to-helmet hits did not trickle down to Churchman Stadium. GCC star fullback Justin Kempka took a vicious hit from the Wildcats defense and had to be helped off the field with a concussion.
Late in the second quarter it looked as if the battle-worn GCC soldiers would falter, but they dug down deep and behind quarterback Terrence Stepoli and refused to surrender.
Terrance, a 6-4 African-American quarterback, was a three-year starter at quarterback for Monessen, before he and his 6-6 brother Josh transferred to GCC. PIAA rules state that student-athletes who transfer for what is determined to be athletic intent cannot join their team for one year. However, after principals Don Favero of Greensburg Central and Randall Marino of Monessen both signed off on the transfers, the WPIAL granted immediate eligibility.
Stepoli is the WPIAL’s version of “Slash.” He is the team captain and runs the Wildcat offense. Stepoli plays quarterback, running back, wide receiver and is one of the top linebackers in the state.
East Allegheny held a closer-than-comfortable 13-6 lead at the half after Stepoli passed for an 11-yard touchdown to Romulus Marino with only 40 seconds left.
As East Allegheny speedster Jody Harris awaited the opening shotgun snap of the second half, one of his teammates shouted out, “Take it to the crib!”
Harris, nearly took it to the crib. He broke up the middle and then used his speed to race down the left sideline for 70 yards down to the 10 yard line.
The Centurions defense stiffened and the score remained 13-6 after another East Allegheny missed field goal.
The score remained 13-6 late in the fourth quarter. Then, Greensburg Central Catholic started chipping away. Slowly but surely and methodically, the Centurions began to wear down the Wildcat defense. Running back Andy Biros outraced the Wildcats defense for a 51-yard touchdown with 4:03 remaining to give Greensburg Central Catholic a 14-13 lead.
Stepoli and Biros combined for over 160 rushing yards.
“The game never should have been this close. We kept killing ourselves with turnovers and penalties,” said Stepoli. “We got a whole bunch of playmakers on this team. We got me, Andy Biros, Justin Kempka and our line just blows everything up. Our goal is to win another championship.”
East Allegheny, on a night when they honored the 1970 conference championship team, had one last chance to knock off the champions. The Wildcats were on the move behind their star quarterback Harris who rushed for a game high 135 yards. But on fourth down Harris dropped back to pass and was sacked by 6-6 junior defensive-end Josh Stepoli.
The Centurions were able to gangster the Wildcats and ruin the homecoming of the 1970 team and the seniors last home game.
“We played these kids from Duquesne when we were single A,” said coach Muzzy Colosimo. “We always had a rivalry with the Duquesne kids.”
With the closing of Duquesne High School back in 2007 they became a welcome addition to East Allegheny. The area still has a great feeder program. The Duquesne Little Dukes are one of the area’s top midget league football programs. East Allegheny, behind the Duquesne area players, was able to take the bacon to the crib twice. But Stepoli and GCC are going back to the “Big House”…Heinz Field.