HAZLETON — When York Catholic looks back at its first ever appearance in the PIAA state football tournament, it'll know why it didn't come away with a win.
In the span of four possessions in the middle of the second quarter and the start of the third, the Fighting Irish fumbled the ball four times, losing three of them. Following each one, too, Dunmore made sure to take advantage.
As a result, the District 2-champion Bucks scored 27 unanswered points, en route to a 48-35 win over York Catholic at Hazleton's Harman-Geist Memorial Field, ending the Fighting Irish's season at 10-2.
"Going into the game, we talked about it and you can't turn the ball over," York Catholic head coach Eric DePew said. "Turnovers are going to kill you in a game like this. We're in the football game and still in a great position going into halftime down 20-19, but turning the ball over, you're not going to win doing that."
What will probably stick with the Fighting Irish the most is that, when the fumbles started to rack up, they held a 19-7 lead and were driving to possibly make it a three-possession game. But, when it comes to a team like Dunmore that's been in its share of state playoff games, all it takes is one break to go its way and it'll make the most of it.
The Bucks (13-0) scored on each of their two possessions off of the fumbles before the half, erasing the 12-point deficit to hold a 20-19 lead at halftime.
Coming out of the halftime break, Dunmore looked like it was going to extend its lead, but coughed up the ball itself, giving York Catholic the break it desperately needed. But, two plays later, a third fumble by the Fighting Irish gave it right back to the Bucks and they capitalized, with Kyle Lasher scoring from four yards out to put the District 2 champs back up by two scores.
Lasher added his fourth score of the game shortly after that on a 41-yard scamper to really put York Catholic in a tough spot. On the night, Lasher would total five touchdowns.
"He's a tough, hard-nosed kid with the obstacles that he's dealing with in life," DePew said about Lasher, who is deaf. "I praise him. ...He's a very fine young man and a heck of an athlete."
Trailing by 15 entering the fourth quarter, York Catholic mounted one final comeback attempt when Dan Yokemick scored on an eight-yard run and then converted the two-point conversion to make it a 34-27 ballgame.
But, it could never get the stop it desperately needed. Back-to-back scores by Dunmore put it back up by three touchdowns and allowed the players and the team's fans to start preparing for next week's Class 2-A quarterfinal game.
The Fighting Irish ended their season on a somewhat positive note, scoring a late touchdown to make the final score respectable, with Yokemick finding Ryan Sewell in the back corner of the endzone for a 23-yard touchdown.
Promising start: York Catholic couldn't have asked for a better start to its first ever state tournament game.
On the opening possession, the Fighting Irish scored to grab a 6-0 lead, with Yokemick scrambling for an 18-yard run. After the Bucks grabbed a 7-6 lead on a Lasher touchdown on their first possession, York Catholic responded in a big way.
On fourth-and-six, Yokemick hit Riley Brennan on a 36-yard touchdown pass and catch to regain a 12-7 advantage. Then, a couple plays later, the Fighting Irish picked off Dunmore quarterback Gavin Darcy, eventually setting themselves up for a one-yard touchdown plunge by senior Jakkar Kinard to take a 19-7 lead within the first minute of the second quarter.
"We just kept capitalizing and getting big stops on defense," Kinard said about the team's fast start.
But, that was the last positive moment for York Catholic for the next quarter-and-a-half, as the turnovers crept into play.
The constant turnovers forced the Fighting Irish defense to stay on the field more than they would've liked, eventually being worn down by the Bucks' relentless ground game, which racked up 343 yards.
"They do some things with their motion that confuses you, but they run hard," DePew said about Dunmore's rushing attack. "When you got a coach that's been there 50 years and they have a system that they believe in, that's what they do. ...We had opportunities to stop it, but we didn't tackle sometimes. We were going for strips a lot and that aspect, they're picking up yards after contact.
York Catholic accumulated 167 rushing yards of its own, with Kinard leading the way with 118 yards on 18 carries in his final high school game, while Yokemick had 49 yards on 10 attempts. Yokemick also threw for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 12-of-19 passing. Eight of those 12 completion went to Brenden Kennedy, who finished with eight grabs for 61 yards.
Defensively, the Fighting Irish had no answer for Lasher, who rushed the ball a staggering 48 times for 267 yards and the five scores.
Despite the defeat, it was still a monumental season for York Catholic. It snapped a 24-year York-Adams League division title drought, a 34-year District 3 championship drought and was the first team in program history to make the state tournament.
That'll be definitely something to build on for the 2017 season.
"This group bought into everything," DePew said. "They cared about each other. They believed; they sold out. We'll be back in this game. We'll be back here because we got a taste of it."
DUNMORE 48, YORK CATHOLIC 35
YC — Yokemick 18-yard run (Kick failed), 8:17
D — Lasher 4-yard run (Rinaldi kick), 2:50
YC — Brennan 36-yard catch (2-point conversion no good), :38
YC — Kinard 1-yard run (Basile kick), 11:17
D — Cole 13-yard catch (Rinaldi kick), 2:53
D — Lasher 11-yard run (Kick failed), 1:22
D — Lasher 4-yard run (Rinaldi kick), 3:00
D — Lasher 41-yard run (Rinaldi kick), 1:58
YC — Yokemick 8-yard run (2-point conversion good), 11:05
D — Darcy 1-yard run (Rinaldi kick), 5:25
D — Lasher 1-yard run (Rinaldi kick), 1:55
YC — Sewell 23-yard catch (2-point conversion good), :19
First Downs: YC, 19. D, 25
Rushes-Yards: YC, 28-167. D, 62-343
Passing Yards: YC 139. D, 54
Comp-Attempts-INTs: YC, 12-19-1. D, 5-11-1
Penalties-Yards: YC, 6-38. D, 6-65.
Punts-Average: YC, 1-30.0. D, 0-0
Fumbles-Lost: YC, 5-3. D, 3-1
Individual Passing: YC, Yokemick 12-19-139, 2 TD's. D, Darcy 5-11-54, 1 TD.
Individual Rushing: YC, Kinard 18-118, Yokemick 10-49. D, Lasher 48-267, Petrowski 11-53, Darcy 2-15, Dougherty 1-8.
Individual Receiving: YC, Kennedy 8-61, Brennan 2-50, Sewell 1-23, Anzalone 1-5. D, Fangio 2-23, Dougherty 2-18, Cole 1-13.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com