After a 32-7 win over Northeastern brought the Bearcats to 6-0 in league play, York High coach Russ Stoner said the team is ready for Central York. ROB ROSE, @robrosesports
It’s finally here.
After 10 weeks of anticipation, two neighboring rivals will slug it out Friday night in a winner-take-all battle for the York-Adams League Division I football championship.
A monster crowd and a horde of media will descend on Central York High School to see the host Panthers (8-1 overall) take on York High (7-2).
Both teams enter the game with unblemished 6-0 divisional records.
Both teams will also look to capture an outright D-I championship for the first time in at least several years.
Central York’s last outright D-I crown came in 2013, when it won the second of its two straight titles.
York High’s last outright D-I crown came in 2007, although the Bearcats have shared the division crown in each of the last two years with Red Lion (in 2018) and Dallastown (in 2017).
District 3 implications: Finally, both teams will look to score some critical points in the District 3 power ratings.
Central York is No. 5 in the 6-A ratings. Only the top four teams in the final power ratings after Friday’s games will earn a first-round district home game in the eight-team 6-A field. A win over York High might be enough to push Central into the top four.
York High, meanwhile, is No. 4 in the 5-A rating,s and only the top two teams in the final ratings will earn a first-round bye in the 14-team bracket. Beat Central York, and the Bearcats might just sneak into the top two in the final ratings.
So, there’s more than just a little bit at stake on Friday night.
Distancing themselves from the field: Before the season began, pretty much everyone expected Central and York High to contend for the D-I title. As the season progressed, however, the Panthers and the Bearcats clearly distanced themselves from the field.
On paper, at least, the Panthers have been more impressive vs. their D-I foes.
Central has outscored its six D-I opponents by a whopping 312-28 margin, for an average winning margin of more than 47 points per game. Each of Central’s D-I wins have come by at least 33 points.
York High, meanwhile, has struggled at times vs. some D-I foes but still managed to win each of those games by double digits. The Bearcats’ average winning margin vs. D-I foes is nearly 24 points per game.
Last year’s game: Then there’s the matter of last year’s battle, when the Bearcats dominated the Panthers, 54-14, behind a 309-yard, four-touchdown effort from Dayjure Stewart, who finished the 2018 season with more than 3,000 yards rushing.
After the game, Stewart was blunt about the Bearcats’ motivation for the game.
“They talked so much smack,” Stewart said. “We had to punch ‘em in the mouth.”
It certainly didn’t help the Panthers last year when their star quarterback, Cade Pribula, was forced to leave the game with a first-quarter injury. The Delaware recruit was replaced by his younger brother, freshman Beau Pribula, who had been one of Cade’s favorite targets as a wide receiver.
Beau struggled at QB against the Bearcats last year, going 3 for 10 for 89 yards with two interceptions. He was also sacked five times.
Central York has weapons: Beau’s talent, however, is beyond dispute. He had a scholarship offer from Temple before ever starting a high school game at QB. This year, despite missing a couple of games with injuries, the sophomore has proven to be a dual threat for the Panthers with his arm and his legs. Just a couple weeks ago in a pivotal D-I battle vs. Northeastern, Beau threw for 187 yards and ran for 59 more. He threw for two TDs and ran for one in that game.
Beau also has a variety of talented offensive options to work with, most notably wideout Taylor Wright-Rawls. They’ve helped Central average 52 points vs. D-I foes.
Defensively, Central has also been dominant, allowing D-I opponents fewer than five points per game.
Only a turnover-plagued, one-point road loss to traditional District 3 power Cumberland Valley (5-4) has blemished Central’s overall record.
York High has talent, too: York High, meanwhile, has more than a little talent of its own.
Defensively, the Bearcats are coming off one of their top efforts of the season in last week’s 32-7 win vs. Northeastern. They held the league’s leading rusher, Manny Capo, to 79 yards, while also registering six sacks.
Offensively, the Bearcats feature a bevy of talented runners, led by Tyrell Whitt and QB Tobee Stokes. Both are game breakers.
York High’s only losses came early in the season to state power Pittsburgh Central Catholic and a three-point setback to a Cedar Crest outfit that sits at 6-3. PCC is 8-1 and ranked No. 3 in the state in 6-A.
Bearcats not intimidated: It’s clear that York High coach Russ Stoner isn’t intimidated by Central’s overwhelming efforts vs. divisional foes.
“Dominating who?” Stoner asked about the Panthers after Friday’s win vs. Northeastern. “We still have to play, and at the end of the day, we’re going to go there, line up and we’re going to play football.
"It doesn’t matter how many points they scored against that team, how many points they didn’t give up; what happens next week at 7 p.m. matters, and that’s what we’re going to concentrate on.”
Central, for its part, also has its game face on. Panthers coach Josh Oswalt has closed the Panthers’ practices to the media this week. He is attempting to win his first divisional crown as Central’s head coach.
Put it all together, and you have the makings of a showdown, in the best sense of the word.
Now we can only hope that the game lives up to the hype.
— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.