Central Catholic offensive lineman Samuel Brackney and running back Elijah Faulkner have a special bond.

“I’ve been playing football with him since he was 5,” said Brackney, who grew up as a Quaker Valley youth football player with Faulkner. “That’s just my best friend. I ride to Central with him every day.”

While the two usually begin their day together, they also find each other at the end of many of Central Catholic’s drives.

“After every touchdown I always pick him up,” Brackney said.

The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Vikings junior center’s arms must have been tired Friday night.

Faulkner rushed for a career-best 229 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries to lead the Vikings to a critical 50-22 victory against host North Allegheny at Newman Stadium in McCandless. The game was a rematch of the 2022 WPIAL Class 6A championship, which the Tigers won, 35-21.

“He’s my best friend,” Brackney said. “I work out with him every day, we work out by ourselves. He’s an amazing kid. He’s an amazing person. This is a reflection of him on and off the field.”

After Central Catholic fell behind, 8-0, on a 3-yard, first-quarter touchdown run by North Allegheny running back Tyree Alualu, Faulkner broke off a 30-yard scoring run to tie the score.

Central Catholic’s Elijah Faulkner and Roman Kane celebrate a touchdown against North Allegheny Friday at North Allegheny Senior High School in McCandless. Faulkner rushed for a career-high 229 yards and four TDs in a 50-22 win for Central. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Faulkner then handed the Vikings their first lead of the game when he found the end zone on a 2-yard run to cap a three-play, 13-yard drive.

With Central Catholic leading, 29-15, at halftime, Faulkner then scored second-half  touchdown runs of 1 and 5 yards to lengthen the Vikings lead to 43-15 with 8:01 left in the contest.

“Our line just blocked well,” Faulkner said. “They only had five in the box, so once you made that middle linebacker miss there was no one else there.”

Over the past three weeks, Faulkner steadily has been increasing his output.

Faulkner rushed for 56 yards in Central Catholic’s 62-46 Week 2 win against Bethel Park before rushing for 55 yards and three touchdowns in the Vikings’ 49-0 victory in Week 3 against Mt. Lebanon. He has now rushed for 487 yards and 10 touchdowns for 5-0 Central Catholic.

“That kid represents our program the right way,” said first-year Vikings coach Ryan Lehmeier of Faulkner. “He does everything he’s coached to do, everything we ask of him. I can’t say enough good words about him. I love that kid.”

That Faulkner had the game he did against the defending WPIAL champions speaks volumes about the 5-foot-10, 190-pound junior, Lehmeier said.

“Exceptional,” he said of Faulkner. “Just the way he ran the ball, the yards after contact, I thought he did exactly what we needed out of him.”

Faulkner said he has focused on one thing in particular this season with Central Catholic’s coaching staff.

“I feel like I’ve developed a lot of patience this year,” he said. “Coach Lehmeier, Coach [Tim] Sasson, Coach [Aaron] Chapman have really helped me this year to have patience in the hole and wait for it to open up.”

For Lehmeier, that work ethic has been critical to Faulkner’s development.

“Elijah is a relentless worker,” Lehmeier said. “You don’t have to tell him things twice. He has a knack for the position. He runs the ball with speed, runs with power, elusiveness. I can’t say enough about him.”

Faulkner’s play also was critical to opening things up for the rest of the Vikings offense Friday night.

Central Catholic quarterback Payton Wehner completed 11-of-17 passes for 152 yards. He completed touchdown passes of 13 and 9 yards to tight end Cole Sullivan, who finished with 37 yards and four catches.

Central Catholic’s Peter Gonzalez reacts to a play against North Allegheny at North Allegheny Senior High School in McCandless. (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

“The first half we start to get going,” Faulkner said. “By the second half, they don’t want to tackle anymore.”

The Central Catholic defense, however, had no such issues against the Tigers.

Although North Allegheny quarterback Logan Kushner threw for 170 yards and rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, while Alualu finished with 83 yards and a score on the ground, the Vikings defense also was dominant at times.

Inside linebacker Anthony Speca racked up 11 tackles, one for a loss, with a forced fumble for Central Catholic. Vikings senior linebacker Dylan Deasy added 10 tackles and a sack, and Colsen Gatten added 10 tackles.

Defensive back Xxavier Thomas had two interceptions for Central Catholic, and Sullivan had two fumble recoveries.

“We’re ready,” Faulkner said. “We want to go long in states, we want to go win states.”

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at jsanta@unionprogress.com.

John Santa

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at jsanta@unionprogress.com.