It's not often that a coach gets the water cooler treatment for a midseason victory. But with what has transpired with the York High football program over the past eight months, nothing can be taken for granted.
So when the Bearcats rallied to take a fourth-quarter lead against rival Dallastown Friday night and then held on a 4th-and-4 on their own 5-yard line with under two minutes left, it was only natural for star tailback Kelvin Nieves to seek out a water cooler.
Or, better yet, for one to find him.
Nieves came up with the play of the night by stuffing Dallastown running back Robert Catchings in the backfield on that pivotal fourth-down play. That stop allowed the home team to celebrate on its Homecoming in style after a dramatic 29-22 victory.
The first part of that celebration started when Nieves found a full water cooler at midfield. The Bearcat senior quickly retrieved the cooler before dousing head coach Shawn Heinold after his postgame huddle.
"They're always trying to get me," said Heinold, who was dripping wet on what was a cold and windy evening.
When Nieves found out about the cooler, it wasn't a matter of if, but when he'd be able to douse his coach.
"The bucket was in the middle of the field and somebody came up to me and said, 'there's a bucket of ice cold water in the field let's get that.' So (Coach Heinold) started talking (away from me) and I started running toward the bucket, picked it up, and he wasn't looking. I got him good."
The program has come a long way since this spring, when it was up for extinction due to budget problems in the school district. But somehow the program survived and these Bearcats (3-4 overall, 2-0 Div I) are doing the same.
"We can't give up," Heinold said. "We only have 30 kids on our team. Every guy on the team plays a critical part on this team."
York High found itself down by a 16-0 margin at the half, yet found a way to rally in the second half.
"I'm just proud of them," Heinold said. "This is a character builder. They were tested and they were checking their manhood (at halftime). I just told them, 'guys, let's just come out and finish.' We kind of came out and smacked them on the mouth a little bit and came out with a 'W' tonight."
Nieves has been the hands-down leader of the program in his senior season and was the one to spur his team on at the intermission.
"In the first half, (it was like) everybody was giving up," Nieves said. "In the second half I told everybody that we have to go hard. I told them that they promised me a win. So we came out and played hard in the second half and got that win. This really means a lot to us."
After Dallastown (3-4, 1-1) took a 22-14 lead late in the third quarter, Nieves wasted little time evening it up. The York High star avoided pressure in the backfield and sprinted down the right sideline for a 75-yard touchdown run just 38 seconds after Catchings scored on a 10-yard run. Quarterback James Way converted on the two-point conversion to even up the score at 22-all with 8.2 seconds left in the third.
"Actually I thought I was going to get tackled in the backfield," Nieves said. "Until I saw the opening, I broke off the tackle and I started running. It was daylight. I saw the guy coming at an angle and I just stiff-armed him down and I just kept running. I was tired, but I just kept running."
After a punt, the Bearcats got the ball back midway through the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead. Way, who transferred into the school district over the summer, kept finding ways to move the chains on the drive. After a pass interference call against Dallastown prevented a possible 3-and-out, Way found the athletic Derek Wilson for a long pass the pushed the ball down to the Wildcat 29.
Way (two TD passes) converted two more first downs on QB option plays to get inside the Dallastown 5-yard line before Nieves punched in the go-ahead score with 5:22 left.
Dallastown calmly drove the ball down the field behind the running of Catchings, who rushed for over 150 yards in the contest. Catchings eventually ran for a first down at the York High 11 before the Bearcat defense stiffened. Three runs failed to yielded another first down and set up the 4th-and-4 from the Bearcat 5 with 1:30 left on the clock.
Just before the snap, Heinold was frantically trying to get a timeout called, but to no avail. Fortunately Nieves sniffed out the play and came up with the biggest tackle of the season for his team.
"I knew they were going to give the ball to (Catchings)," Nieves said. "It's play recognition. They were going to the left when they were going up the field, so I knew where the ball was going. I started going laterally and then I ran into the hole opening that I had seen. And Robert Catchings was there and I grabbed him and took him down."
The Wildcats only had one timeout left at that point and were powerless to prevent the Bearcats for securing their second-straight York-Adams Division I triumph.
"That was emotional," Nieves said.
Dallastown 10 6 6 0 - 22
York High 0 0 22 7 - 29
Dt - Josh Chronister 34 FG, 5:52.
Dt - Chandler Green 16 pass from Andrew Henry (Chronister kick), 0:33.
Dt - Drew Romesberg 20 pass from Kyle Andrews (kick failed), 1:39.
YH - John Philips 16 pass from James Way (Thurman Fogleman kick), 8:05.
YH - Derek Wilson 5 pass from Way (Fogleman kick), 2:44.
Dt - Robert Catchings 10 run (kick failed), 0:46.
YH - Kelvin Nieves 75 run (Way run), 0:08.
YH - Nieves 3 run (Fogleman kick), 5:22.