York Catholic vs Newport in District 3, Class 2-A Championship football at Boiling Springs.
BOILING SPRINGS — At some point, York Catholic football coach Eric DePew thought his team was going to get the break it needed to turn the tide in its District 3 2-A championship game against Newport on Saturday, Nov. 11.
He thought that moment came at the tail end of the first half, when the Fighting Irish blocked a punt to set themselves up for a quick score to cut into a deficit. But, that did little to generate momentum for the rest of the contest.
When the second half began, it was much more of the same from the first two quarters, as the second-seeded Buffaloes just wore down the top-seeded York Catholic defense. Newport eventually opened up a game that was one-sided everywhere but the scoreboard to pull away with a 26-7 victory and claim the District 3 2-A title at Boiling Springs High School.
"Fundamentally, we didn't block very well, we didn't tackle very well and we turned the ball over," DePew said. "Things that we've done well in the season, we didn't do here tonight."
The game was a rematch of last year's championship showdown, one that the Fighting Irish comfortably won.
This time around, the game played out drastically different.
Even trailing 13-7 at halftime, York Catholic felt good about itself. Having generated just 57 yards of offense through the first two quarters, the Fighting Irish felt fortunate to be within a score and getting the ball to start the third quarter.
"We had some momentum at the half with the blocked punt and knowing we were only one score down," DePew said. "So, we had some excitement and made some adjustments."
Unfortunately, those adjustments made didn't translate into anything offensively, while the defense did its part to keep York Catholic in the game.
After both teams went scoreless in the third, it took less than a minute for the Buffaloes to break through the Fighting Irish defense and all but put the game away. Ethan Rode's second touchdown of the game, a one-yard run, put Newport (10-1) in front, 19-7, which seemed like an insurmountable deficit for York Catholic to overcome the way it was moving the ball.
"They were controlling the line of scrimmage, controlling the gaps and getting pressure," DePew said about his team's offensive struggles. "They just did a nice job preparing."
That proved true, as Fighting Irish quarterback Kyle Dormer was intercepted on the next possession, his second pick of the night, putting a confident Buffaloes offense back on the field.
Again, with a strong ground attack, Newport killed the will of the York Catholic defense, with Rode capping the drive with another one-yard touchdown run to all but seal the victory with less than seven minutes to play.
While the Buffaloes were content in just killing clock and punting the ball away, the Fighting Irish continued to try and stretch the field to mount one final comeback attempt. A pair of turnover on downs was how York Catholic's offense went out, eventually allowing Newport to gain possession one last time, take three knees and run out the clock.
First-half struggles: In the game's opening half, very little went right for the Fighting Irish offense.
After surrendering a pair of touchdowns to the Buffaloes to fall behind 13-0 early in the second quarter, it looked like that would be too much for York Catholic to overcome.
However, a blocked punt inside of a minute to play in the first half gave the Fighting Irish the break it needed, setting it up with the ball at the Newport 14. It took just one play for the York Catholic to turn it into points, with Dormer connecting with Riley Brennan on a 14-yard pass to get the Fighting Irish on the board and cut the Buffaloes' lead to 13-7 at halftime.
Offensive woes: For the game, the Fighting Irish totaled just 82 yards of offense, managing just three yards on the ground.
After being torched for more than 500 yards rushing in this game a year ago, Newport keyed in on the run and made it a priority to stop it. Dormer rushed for minus-15 yards on 16 attempts, while Andrew Snelbaker had some success with 36 yards on nine carries.
However, four turnovers — three interceptions and a fumble — ended four York Catholic drives.
Rodes was unstoppable on the ground for Newport. He rushed for 197 yards on 36 carries, before leaving the game after sustaining an injury late in the fourth quarter. The Buffaloes, as a team, out-gained the Fighting Irish, 306-82.
Even with an end to the year that came sooner than York Catholic would've hoped, it still completed a season in which it went 8-3 overall, was crowned co-Division III champs in the York-Adams League and made a fifth consecutive district final.
"To get here five times in a row is a great accomplishment," DePew said. "Losing this game doesn't make our season any less. We repeated as division champs, we took two games that we lost and we rallied. We could've tanked it, but we did what we had to do to get to this game to give us an opportunity."
NEWPORT 26, YORK CATHOLIC 7
N - Rode 9-yard run (Barlup kick), 6:18
N - Grabiec 1-yard run (2-point attempt failed), 11:06
YC - Brennan 14-yard catch (Thomas kick), 52.6
N - Rode 1-yard run (2-point attempt failed), 11:20
N - Rode 1-yard run (Barlup kick), 6:58
First Downs: N, 17. YC, 8
Rushes-Yards: N, 57-269. YC, 26-3
Passing Yards: N, 37. YC, 79
Comp-Attempts-INTs: N, 3-13-0. YC, 6-24-3
Penalties-Yards: N, 3-20. YC, 4-22
Punts-Average: N, 3-29.7. YC, 3-36.7
Fumbles-Lost: N, 2-1. YC, 1-1
Individual Passing: N, Grabiec 3-13-37, 0 TD. Dormer 6-24-79, 1 TD.
Individual Rushing: N, Rode 36-197, Grabiec 17-69, Pyle 3-3, Hockenberry 1-0. YC, Snelbaker 9-36, Dormer 16-(-)15, Team 1-(-)18.
Individual Receiving: N, Rode 1-20, T. Gonzalez 1-10, Taylor 1-7. YC, Brennan 4-63, Amalfitano 2-16.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org