Photo Courtesy of Associated Press
Younger (left, number 25) gets pushed out of bounds by a Parkland defender during the PIAA Championship game
By Neil Strebig
Brighton Heights resident and Pittsburgh Central Catholic tailback J.J. Younger may be small for a running back, but he plays larger than his size. The 5-foot 8, 160-pound Junior guided his team to a 21-18 victory in the PIAA Class AAAA Championship Dec. 18 over Parkland at Hershey Park Stadium.
“I don’t really think about my size – I don’t feel that little,” Younger said. “When I was playing the game, everything was zoned out – it was a whole other experience.”
Younger was on JV most of the year until, injuries during Central Catholic’s postseason run gave him an opportunity to shine. He rose to the occasion in the state championship game, compiling 184 yards including the go-ahead touchdown on a 54-yard scamper. Younger’s touchdown run was in his words the “game-changer” ultimately putting the game out of reach for Parkland.
Younger is unapologetically humble when speaking out about his accomplishments in this season’s finale. He views his performance as his best contribution to help the team win rather than a highlight reel debut.
Although he admits that playing on JV certainly gave him a slight chip on his shoulder, one that helped fuel his “downhill” running style, he learned playing youth football with the North Shore Stallions.
“Last year, when I was on JV I was looking up at the varsity players too like I want to be on that team one day and I finally got a chance in the state championship game.”
The 16-year-old is looking forward to next season with his sights set on securing the starting tailback position and helping his team repeat as both WPIAL and state champions. Younger also competes for Central Catholic’s track team as a sprinter on the 100 meter, 200, and 4×100 relay team, as well as a centerfielder on the club baseball team.
Neil Strebig is a Northsider and student intern attending Point Park University.