Walker's son takes charge at Central Catholic
The Pittsburgh school has been selected the best.
Pittsburgh Central Catholic football coach Art Walker Jr. knows all about preseason pressure. He grew up with it.
Walker's father, Art, was the highly successful head coach at Mount Lebanon High School in the 1970s and 1980s.
Art Sr. won five District 7 (WPIAL) titles at Mount Lebanon and one at Shady Side Academy. A number of his Mount Lebanon teams were preseason No. 1 picks in western Pennsylvania.
Now it's the son's turn.
Central Catholic is being picked to repeat as District 7 Class AAAA champion, and is No. 1 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's preseason statewide rankings.
Walker Jr. has 16 lettermen returning from last year's PIAA runner-up squad, including running back Eugene Jarvis and tight end-defensive end John Pelusi. The Vikings were 13-2 last season.
"You're proud when you're ranked No. 1 coming into the season. I'm happy for the players that they're getting a lot of recognition," Walker Jr. said. "But you also know that puts a target on you and that every one is going to be trying to knock you off. ... Being ranked No. 1 in the state just makes the target bigger."
District 7 teams got a jump on the rest of the state by opening their seasons this weekend. District 7 was given permission by the PIAA to start training camps and the season a week earlier so it could keep its playoff structure intact and still fit into the PIAA's restructured playoff format.
The other PIAA districts play their first games Sept. 3-4.
While Central Catholic has a number of regulars returning, the Vikings also lost a lot of good players.
"The guys who graduated off last year's team night not have been Division I prospects, but a lot of them were good, solid players who will be playing in college this fall," he said. "We have some gifted guys in Eugene and John and Shane Murray, but we've got some gaps to fill and you never know how players will react."
Jarvis (5-foot-7, 165 pounds) rushed for 1,683 yards on 225 carries and scored 39 touchdowns last year. Pelusi (6-3, 235) is getting some Division I-A attention. Murray (6-2, 190), the quarterback, accounted for 1,989 yards of total offense last year.
Central Catholic opened the season at Gateway on Friday, then takes on Saint Joseph's Prep on Saturday at Gateway before jumping into its conference schedule the following week against Penn-Trafford.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's preseason PIAA rankings:
Class AAAA: 1, Pittsburgh Central Catholic. 2, North Penn. 3, Pennridge. 4, Harrisburg. 5, Penn Hills.
Class AAA: 1, Strath Haven. 2, Interboro. 3, Pine-Richland. 4, Manheim Central. 5, Berwick.
Class AA: 1, Aliquippa. 2, Mount Carmel. 3, Dunmore. 4, South Park. 5, Dallas.
Class A: 1, Southern Columbia, 2, Western Beaver, 3, Steelton-Highspire, 4, Rochester, 5, Duquesne.
Conwell-Egan running back Steve Slaton (5-10, 185) has verbally committed to Maryland. He is the No. 4 all-time rusher in the Philadelphia area with 4,166 yards and could move into third place this year.
The city's all-time rusher is Kevin Jones of Cardinal O'Hara with 5,728 yards. Curtis Brinkley of West Catholic is Philadelphia's all-time leader with 7,413 yards.
Pennridge running back Ryan Greiser (6-1, 210) has committed to Liberty University. He rushed for 1,335 yards last season despite missing four games with a shoulder injury. He needs 140 yards to become Pennridge's all-time leading rusher. He was also being recruited by Syracuse.
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