BOILING SPRINGS — It was a title four years in the making for the York Catholic football team.
Playing in their fourth consecutive District 3 championship game, the Fighting Irish were 0-for-3 in three previous tries. Maybe it was the classification change from 1-A to 2-A that made the difference. Or perhaps it was the venue change from Hersheypark Stadium to Boiling Spring High School's Ecker Field.
Either way, this year's result was different for York Catholic, as it defeated Newport, 51-21, on Saturday night, winning the District 3 2-A title and the program's first since 1982.
"It's awesome," Fighting Irish head coach Eric DePew said. "It's awesome for the school. It's a great thing. We get a lot of support from our administration and student body. But, just for us, it was huge to be in this game, our fourth straight time, we didn't want to come up short."
It was a game that looked like it was going to be a shootout early on, but only York Catholic continued to put up absurd offensive numbers. Through the two-headed rushing duo of quarterback Dan Yokemick and running back Jakkar Kinard, the Fighting Irish torched the Buffaloes' defense. The two guys ran for a combined 525 yards and six touchdowns to pace the York Catholic attack.
"It's a 1-2 punch," Kinard said. "Sometimes they'll key-in on me and then he'll run and then they'll key-in on him and I'll run. It's hard for defenses to stop that kind of thing."
Added Yokemick, "Our offensive line just does such a good job opening up holes for us."
After falling behind 7-0 early when second-seeded Newport scored on its opening possesion, it took the Fighting Irish just two plays to answer right back. Yokemick scampered for a 63-yard touchdown to pull York Catholic to within one after the extra point was blocked.
That was just the start of the long touchdown runs for the Fighting Irish. A Brenden Kennedy nine-yard touchdown grab made it 12-7 York Catholic and then Kinard bettered Yokemick's touchdown run with one of 67 yards to make it 19-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Eventually, the Fighting Irish defense got in on the action, forcing three first-half interceptions by Buffaloes' quarterback Noah Heimbaugh. On the night, he was picked off five times, just one shy of his season total of six entering the game. By halftime, York Catholic held a 32-21 lead, but the game felt much more one-sided than that.
"Our defensive backs, we've worked so hard, all summer and all year," Kennedy said. "We have a unit back there and we know exactly what each other is going to do at all times and we can cover a lot of ground back there."
When the Fighting Irish came out to start the second half, it was much of the same, as they continued to apply pressure to the Newport defense with their rushing attack, giving the Tri-Valley Conference team no reason to feel like it could come back.
Yokemick scored his second touchdown of the game, this one on a modest 36-yard run to put top-seeded York Catholic ahead by three scores. Then, he put the game to bed with a 91-yard touchdown run, matching the District 3 title game record for longest touchdown run.
At that point, after suffering through three years of disappointment, the Fighting Irish could finally relish in the fact that they were one quarter away from being District 3 champions.
"When we got that last score there and made a nice defensive stand with a nice turnover," DePew said. "I just kind of sensed that it was our year. I just believed that with our division, we could take our division and I kind of went into tonight — I knew Newport was a quality football team, has some great athletes, they're well-coached — but I just had a feeling it was our year."
For good measure, Yokemick threw one more touchdown in the fourth quarter, this one to Ryan Sewell to give him five total touchdowns on the night.
As a team, York Catholic ran for 531 yards, a District 3 championship game record in all classes. Yokemick finished with 291 yards on just 17 carries, with the yardage total also setting a District 3 2-A championship game record. Overall, the Fighting Irish tied or set six championship game records, adding points in a half (53), interceptions in a chamionship game (5) and combined rushing yards for a championship game (711).
Had it not been for Yokemick's monster performance, Kinard would've broken the individual rushing record with his 238-yard performance.
The Buffaloes' Eli Goodling ran for 164 yards and two touchdowns, while Heimbaugh totaled 171 passing yards.
Next up for York Catholic is the first round of the PIAA Class 2-A state tournament. The Fighting Irish will face District 2 champions Dunmore next weekend. No date, time or location has been set for that game.
YORK CATHOLIC 51, NEWPORT 21
N — Goodling 1-yard run (Barlup kick), 9:29
YC — Yokemick 63-yard run (kick failed), 8:39
YC — Kennedy 9-yard catch (2-point conversion failed), 2:28
YC — Kinard 67-yard run (Basile kick), :44
N — Goodling 9-yard run (Barlup kick), 11:23
YC — Kinard 1-yard run (Basile kick), 8:45
N — Reich 63-yard catch (Barlup kick), 7:22
YC — Kinard 4-yard run (kick failed), 3:43
YC — Yokemick 36-yard run (2-point conversion failed), 9:38
YC — Yokemick 91-yard run (Basile kick), 2:20
Sewell 15-yard catch (kick failed), 5:09
First Downs: N, 14. YC, 21
Rushes-Yards: N, 37-180. YC, 50-531
Passing Yards: N, 171. YC, 33
Comp-Attempts-INTs: N, 8-23-5. YC, 3-5-1
Penalties-Yards: N, 4-20. YC, 5-34.
Punts-Average: N, 3-15.0. YC, 2-30.5
Fumbles-Lost: N, 1-0. YC, 0-0
Individual Passing: N, Heimbaugh 8-23-171, 1 TD. YC, Yokemick, 3-4-33, 2 TD's.
Individual Rushing: N, Goodling 30-164. 7-16. YC, Yokemick 17-291. Kinard 30-238. Hamilton 3-4.
Individual Receiving: N, Reich 3-116. Paden 2-27. Berkheimer 2-18. Goodling 1-10. YC, Sewell 2-24. Kennedy 1-9.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com