The last time Central York played a home football game, the Panthers nipped Spring Grove, 26-25, in a clash of two teams expected to contend for the York-Adams Division I title.
Central will return to its turf field on Friday night for a game with a big reward: the winner gains control of the division race.
Dallastown, 2-0 in division play and 6-1 overall, will take on the Panthers (2-0, 5-2). The kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
"It's going to be crazy here," Central offensive and defensive lineman Erik Ramirez said on Wednesday during practice. "It's Homecoming, and a lot of alumni are going to be coming back."
The 6-foot, 2-inch, 250-pound senior knows the challenge facing the Panthers.
"Dallastown has a good defense and a strong offensive line. We'll have to play our best game of the year to beat them."
Dallastown's defense is allowing just 13.6 points a game, and Central is slightly behind at 16.7 points a game. The Panthers' offense is averaging 30.6 points a game, compared to Dallastown's 28.9.
The similarities of the two teams don't end there.
"Central has size and speed, and we have size and speed," Dallastown head coach Kevin Myers said. "Central-Dallastown, that's been turning into quite a game."
Ramirez is one of the big guys up front for Central. Jordan Woods, a 5-11, 260-pound senior for Dallastown, is Ramirez's counterpart.
"Chemistry is the secret to why our line has done well," Woods said. "I've been working with (center) Matt (Gaynor) the last three years and everyone else on the offensive line, I've been working with since January."
Woods said the Wildcats' hopes were high entering the season.
"With as many guys as we had coming back (six returning starters on offense and seven on defense), it was definitely exciting when we thought about this season," he said.
Central also entered 2013 with championship aspirations, but the Panthers had to get through some rough spots to arrive where they are now.
"Early in the season, there was some frustration, and we let one bad play turn into a second bad play and then a third bad play," said Central head coach Brad Livingston, who recorded his 200th career victory this past Monday night. "We've improved a lot since then. We don't get down when something bad happens. The other night when we had that big drive (a winning 80-yard march in the fourth quarter against Spring Grove), I wasn't surprised we did that."
Breaun Randle did the heavy lifting on the drive carrying all five times, including the final 24-yard burst into the end zone.
Randle is his team's top rusher for the season with 1,011 yards in 134 carries (7.5 average). Central quarterback Dylan Hose has passed for 776 yards and seven touchdowns along with running for 284 yards. Max Haldeman (13 receptions), Zach Emswiler (11 receptions) and Zane Knaub (nine receptions) are Central's leading receivers.
Dallastown's Malik Lewis is one of the league's leading receivers with 28 catches.
Rob Catchings leads the Wildcats' ground game with 858 yards, and quarterback Andrew Henry has connected on 52 of 91 attempts for 726 yards and four touchdowns.
"This is not a season-ending game, but whoever wins, controls their destiny," Myers said.
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org.