RED LION — Nobody can predict what the future will hold for the Red Lion football team.
With the District 3 playoffs beginning next week, every Friday night from here on out has the potential to be the final one for the Lions.
But, after Friday night's 27-7 victory over rival Dallastown, it doesn't matter if Red Lion loses its first postseason game next Friday night or goes on to play in the District 3 6-A championship game. What matters is that, right now, this Lions team is already one of the best in program history.
That's because, with Friday night's win, Red Lion completed a perfect 10-0 regular season, the first time a Lions team accomplished that feat since the 1974 season. It's just the eighth time in program history a team has gone unblemished in the regular season.
"You know what was nice about this team? Because of the seniors, I was able to put expectations on them and I knew it wasn't going to be too much," Red Lion head coach Jesse Shay said. "There are some teams where, if you tell them, 'Look, if you don't win the division title this year, it's a failure.' For some teams that hear that, they freeze up. I said that to this team at the very beginning of the year, way back in summer workouts, that if we didn't win the division title, they would have underachieved. They still exceeded our wildest expectations."
A year ago, it was the Wildcats who went into the Week 10 showdown with a 9-0 record and looking to complete a perfect regular season. On that occasion, the Lions played spoiler, shutting out Dallastown, 26-0, on the road.
Fast start: This year, if was the Wildcats who wanted to return the favor and, if there was any doubt that Red Lion wouldn't be up to the task, they were quickly erased.
On the second play from scrimmage, senior Dylan Gurreri ripped off a 72-yard touchdown to put the Lions on top 6-0. That score set the tone for the night and took the air out of Dallastown.
"Look, our offense has played well all year long," Shay said. "(Dallastown head coach) Kevin (Myers) is a heck of a coach and I know that he had those kids believing that Red Lion is beatable. But, when you see that happen to your defense on the second play of the game...it's absolutely deflating."
Two more touchdowns before the first quarter even expired, one from Sam Emig and the other from Patrick Daugherty, gave Red Lion a 20-0 lead and pretty much determined the game's fate with three quarters still to play.
The score stayed that way going into halftime as the Lions' defense continued to dominate, while the Wildcats' stiffened.
Putting the game away: It looked like Dallastown might get back into the game as it broke off back-to-back first downs to begin the third quarter, but a fumble at midfield stalled any hopes of a potential comeback.
Red Lion put the final nail in the coffin late in the third quarter when Emig found senior wide receiver Taylor Uberti on a 10-yard fade route to go up 27-0.
The Wildcats did avoid getting shut out for a second straight year in this game on a well-orchestrated final drive by backup quarterback Brett Smith. He capped the scoring drive by finding Connor Moore on a nine-yard touchdown pass with just over two minutes remaining.
However, that was about the only bright spot for Dallastown on the night, as it was held to just 127 yards of total offense, nearly half of which came on the scoring drive.
Gurreri led all players in the game with 168 rushing yards on 20 carries, but no carry was bigger than his second of the game, the 72-yard score.
"That was one of my best runs this year and to be against a rival in Dallastown, it was one of my best," he said.
The Lions, as a team, totaled 309 yards on the ground. Emig threw his first interception of the season, one of two the team threw in the game.
Rodney Scott was the only Wildcats back to have any bit of success running the football, gaining 43 yards on 11 carries. Smith finished the game leading the team in passing, despite only playing one drive. He went 5-for-6 on the possession for 53 yards.
With the victory, Red Lion will now host at least one District 3 6-A playoff game next Friday night. And, as every performance seems to get better and better from the team, the Lions will look to become the first team in program history to win 11 games in a season.
"We take what we learned from the week before, everything that we messed up, we put it into our practice," Gurreri said. "We learn from it. We get better, we keep our heads and we know what we're here for and that's what we do."
As for Dallastown, its postseason fate now rests in the hands of the computers. The Wildcats entered the night in sixth place in the 6-A power ratings and with only the top eight making the tournament field, the loss didn't do them any favors.
RED LION 27, DALLASTOWN 7
RL — Gurreri 72-yard run (Kick failed), 11:13
RL — Emig 25-yard run (Emig kick), 5:53
RL — Daugherty 2-yard run (Emig kick), :32
RL — Uberti 10-yard catch (Emig kick), 1:30
Dt — Moore 9-yard catch (Pew kick), 2:34
First Downs: Dt, 10. RL, 15
Rushes-Yards: Dt, 29-61. RL, 52-309
Passing Yards: Dt, 66. RL, 34
Comp-Attempts-INTs: Dt, 6-14-2. RL, 3-8-2
Penalties-Yards: Dt, 4-30. RL, 4-25.
Punts-Average: Dt, 6-35.7. RL, 3-50.7
Fumbles-Lost: Dt, 2-1. RL, 1-0
Individual Passing: Dt, Smith 5-6-44, 1 TD, Sparks,1-8-13. RL, Throne 2-3-24. Emig 1-5-10, 1 TD.
Individual Rushing: Dt, Scott 11-43, Smith 1-9, DeVance 9-9, Sparks 8-0. RL, Gurreri 20-168, Daugherty 11-62, Emig 15-51, Ness 6-28.
Individual Receiving: Dt, Centeno 1-21, Moore 2-20, Ward 1-13, Teyral 1-8, Catchings 1-4. RL, Jones 1-22, Uberti 2-12.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org