York Catholic football falls to 3-5 with loss to Littlestown

Ryan Vandersloot
For The York Dispatch

On paper, the York Catholic football team entered the 2022 season as one of the favorites to contend for both a York-Adams League Division III as well as a District 3 2-A title.

With all-around standout Levan McFadden and several others returning for their senior seasons, those expectations seemed plausible if not warranted.

Games are not simulated or played on paper so surprises – both good and bad – are bound to happen from time to time.

Unfortunately for the Fighting Irish boys, this season hasn’t lived up to what everyone in the program expected. Friday night’s showdown with rival Littlestown was a perfect microcosm of the team’s season to date.

York Catholic’s Levan McFadden carries the ball during football practice at York Catholic High School in York City, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

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Despite dominating the Bolts on the stat sheet, the Irish failed to secure a much-needed victory. A total of four turnovers, as well as another one on downs, spelled doom to the York Catholic boys as Littlestown broke a three-year skid against the Irish with a 29-24 victory.

The Irish dropped to 3-5 overall and 3-2 in the division while the Bolts improved to 4-4 and 4-1.

“We had some missed opportunities,” York Catholic coach Brad Hayek said. “And that’s part of the game. We just need to create opportunities, but we’re on the opposite side of that right now and the other team is capitalizing on them.”

McFadden had one of his best games of the season to date as the Irish QB ran for 150 yards and two scores while throwing for 157 more and another score.

As a team the Irish outgained the Bolts, 457-371, an advantage significant enough that usually results in a victory.

Miscues, however, foiled the Irish time and time again throughout the contest as an opportunistic Littlestown defense, which bended but didn’t break, came up with key stops in the clutch.

“The defense definitely played a huge role in this game,” Littlestown quarterback Alex Popoff said.

So, too, did Popoff, who threw for 295 yards and four scores in the triumph. His personal connection with teammate Zyan Herr was evident all night as the two hooked-up eight times for 198 yards and three scores.

“The connection between us is just really great,” Herr said.

Herr and Popoff combined for two touchdowns a mere 70 seconds apart in the second quarter. Herr hauled in a 10-yard strike that pulled the Bolts within 10-8 of the Irish with 9:06 left in the stanza.

After McFadden, who has also played receiver and running back for the Irish this season, faked a pitch and raced 75 yards to put YC ahead 17-8 just 21 seconds later, Popoff hit Herr on a quick slant over the middle before Herr broke free for an 84-yard touchdown.

“As soon as I saw the ball go in the air, I felt the (YC defender) hit my back,” Herr said. “Then as soon as I turned, I saw green space and I knew I could break through this.”

The Bolts took the lead early in the third quarter with the help of an Irish turnover. The opening kickoff of the half was muffed with the home recovering at the YC 24. After failing to move the ball on the first two downs, Popoff found Nathan Thomas in the endzone to put Littlestown ahead 22-17.

That lead would be short-lived as the Irish marched down the field behind the arm and legs of McFadden. YC needed just nine plays to cover 81 yards with McFadden scoring on a 7-yard run to make it 24-22.

That, however, would be the last time the Irish would find the scoresheet as the visitors committed two turnovers, a turnover on downs and punted on their final four possessions – the last three of which came after Popoff and Herr connected for a 36-yard score with 10:02 left in regulation that put the Bolts up 29-24.

Friday’s setback may be the final nail in the coffin for York Catholic’s postseason aspirations. With only the top four teams in 2-A qualifying, the Irish (.4088 ratings points) are a distant fifth behind Annville-Cleona (.5043) for the final spot.

A-C has a winnable game against Northern Lebanon (2-6) to end the season but a tough one against a solid Schuylkill Valley (6-2) side next week. The Irish have contests remaining against Fairfield (2-5) next week before closing out the regular season against Biglerville (4-4).