WARREN - There was no mystery for the LaBrae Vikings on Saturday. Beat Steubenville Catholic Central and they were likely to see Week 11. Lose for the fourth consecutive week and their season was over.
Tailback Matt Szorady and LaBrae's defensive front helped the Vikings clinch a playoff spot in Division IV, Region 13 with a 27-13 victory over the Fighting Crusaders at Mollenkopf Stadium. The game was moved to Warren G. Harding High School because of poor field conditions at LaBrae.
Szorady showed few signs of the sprained knee that sidelined him against Girard last week, rushing for 176 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries and LaBrae's front four pressured Central quarterback Brenton Colabella relentlessly in the Vikings' victory.
"Szorady is playing on one leg or he'd have been gone a couple times," Vikings coach Bill Bohren said. "The last 3 weeks we haven't played very well. We've been banged up a litle bit and our backs have been hurt."
The injuries - including dual ankle sprains suffered by Szorady's running mate Carl Brown - came to a head at Girard last week, when the Indians crushed the Vikings, 50-0.
"Last week, we played with a shell of a team," Bohren said. "We thought if everybody healed up that we'd have a real run today. I figured we could move the ball on these people and if we could stop their kid throwing the ball, we'd be OK, and that's exactly what happened. We had pretty good ball control and except for a few plays, we did a decent job on him."
LaBrae 27, Catholic Central 13
Catholic Central 0 6 0 7 - 13
LaBrae 14 6 7 0 - 27
L: Zigmont 8 pass from Aldridge (Herron kick)
L: Szorady 1 run (Herron kick)
CC: Herrington 20 pass from Colabella (kick failed)
L: Szorady 16 run (kick failed)
L: Szorady 3 run (Herron kick)
CC: Herrington 4 pass from Colabella (Maslowski kick)
RUSHING: Catholic Central 17-(-25) Panella 5-7, Emmerling 2-4, Colabella 10-(-36); LaBrae 53-3346 Szorady 24-176, A. Brown 8-61, C. Brown 9-48, Miller 7-26, Aldridge 2-19, Barna 3-16.
PASSING: Catholic Central 24-42-1-319 (all by Colabella); LaBrae 3-11-2-22 (all by Aldridge)
RECEIVING: Catholic Central: Pieniazek 11-194, Herrington 10-86, Carapellotti 2-39, Emmerling 1-0; LaBrae: Szorady 1-9, Zigmont 1-8, C. Brown 1-5.
FIRST DOWNS: Central 16, LaBrea 24
PENALTIES-YARDS: Central 3-15, laBrea 8-80
FUMBLES-LOST: Central 1-0, LaBrea 0-0
LaBrae (6-4) will visit either Creston Norwayne or Orrville next week in a regional quarterfinal despite taking a three-game losing streak into Saturday's finale.
"After struggling the last couple weeks, we just had to come together as a team," Szorady said. "We knew if we won this game, we had a pretty good chance of making the playoffs. Our senior class didn't want to have our season end today."
The senior running back scored on runs of 1, 16 and 3 yards and sophomore quarterback Peyton Aldridge threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Paul Zigmont.
The Vikings sacked Colabella seven times. Zigmont and Nate Middleton each dropped the Fighting Crusaders' sophomore twice. Carrington Herron, Dan Misinay and Zach Miller also had sacks. Zigmont forced a fumble on one of his sacks and Misinay recovered.
"They pressured us all day," Central coach Steve Daley said. "We didn't have time to set up a lot of times. A lot of our deeper routes and combination routes, we couldn't run because the pressure eliminated that part of our game.
"We had to look at a lot of underneath stuff."
Some of SCC's underneath routes worked. Colabella was 24 of 42 for 319 yards, including touchdowns of 20 and 4 yards to Zach Herrington.
Brannt Pieniazek caught 11 passes for 194 yards, including a 70-yard catch-and-run, and Herrington had 10 receptions for 86 yards.
"We've got kids that are decent athletes out there," Daley said. "We try to get them the ball in space and see what happens out there. It would've been nice if we could have protected a bit little better, but our kids fought hard."
LaBrae made several key defensive stops.
The first came with the Vikings leading 7-0 and 3:48 to play in the first quarter, when a fake punt backfired on SCC. On fourth-and-4 from the Fighting Crusaders' 34, Colabella took the snap in punt formation, but rolled to his right and looked downfield before Miller closed quickly and dropped him for a 13-yard loss.
Szorady covered the 21 yards to the end zone in three carries, the final one a 1-yard plunge, to make it 14-0.
Central (3-7) cut it to 14-6 in the second quarter when Colabella hit Herrington for a 20-yard score, but the Fighting Crusaders also failed to take advantage of interceptions by B.J. Grandinetti and Jon Emmerling in the first half.
Szorady's 16-yard touchdown run made it 20-6 late in the second quarter.
Central also had two first-half turnovers, both by Colabella. The first was his fumble after a Zigmont sack. The other was a leaping interception by Aldridge at LaBrae's 3 in the closing seconds of the half.
Herron also stuffed Colabella for no gain on a fourth-and-1 keeper at the Fighting Crusaders' 45 in the first half.
Szorady's third touchdown run made it 27-6 midway through the third quarter. Colabella hit Michael Carapellotti for 42 yards and Pieniazek for a gain of 30 to set up a short scoring pass to Herrington late in the final quarter.
Daley was impressed with Szorady, even if he was playing on one leg.
"He's a tough kid," Daley said. "He's a physical kid. We saw him last week against Girard and he went out of the game because he was injured. For a kid like that to come back, he's hard-nosed."