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2018 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: West York and Central York prepare for early season rivalry

Central York quarterback Cade Pribula runs away from a West York defender last season. West York hasn't beat Central since 2014. The two teams square off in Friday's season opener at Central. DISPATCH FILE PHOTO.
  • West York hasn't beaten Central York since 2014.
  • The Panthers defeated the Bulldogs by 12 points last season and 30 points in 2016.
  • West York's Ay'Jaun Marshall and Central's Cade Pribula both present challenges to the defenses.

As one of the best rivalries in the York-Adams League, the match-up between West York and Central York typically kicks off the high school football season in the area.

Most teams in the Y-A League are playing nonleague opponents in Week Zero, but, for a number of years, the Bulldogs and the Panthers have lined up as cross-town rivals on the first Friday of the football season.

The results of this game the last few years, however, haven’t resembled that of a traditional rivalry. Central has won three straight years, including double-digit wins the last two seasons.

No player on the Central roster has lost to West York, and no player on West York has beaten Central.

West York head coach Jeremy Jones noted that his seniors were freshmen in 2015 when the Panthers scored in the last minute of the game to defeat Bulldogs 31-28. Top seniors Ay’Jaun Marshall and Justin Wetzel were starters on that team three years ago.

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“I want it for these kids as much as they want it,” Jones said. “We’ve struggled with some smaller senior classes the last few years, but we have to be better this year. I think this year we’re more mature and physically more mature. I hope it translates to the field.”

Central head coach Josh Oswalt, who is in his third season leading the Panthers, said last season’s 12-point win wasn’t as convincing as it seems, particularly compared to the prior year’s 30-point victory.

“That was a close game,” Oswalt said. “West York did a lot of good things against us last year and put us into bad situations. It wasn’t like (the game in) 2016.”

West York's Ay'Jaun Marshall will present a formidable challenge for the Central York defense on Friday night. DISPATCH FILE PHOTO

Ay'Jaun Marshall: Both teams have dynamic players that each team needs to stop on defense and utilize on offense.

For West York, the Bulldogs are returning Marshall, who was the 2017 D-II Offensive Player of the Year after running for more than 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns.

“It starts with the line,” Jones said. “If we can create some gaps, Ay’Jaun is going to find them.”

“We have to stop Marshall,” Oswalt said. “He’s special. He’s going to have plays, but you can’t give him an opportunity every play. We have to make sure those are few and far between.”

Cade Pribula: For Central, the Panthers return quarterback Cade Pribula, who was a D-I first-team all-star last season. In his two seasons under center, he’s thrown for more than 3,800 combined yards.

“Cade just needs to make sure he manages the game like he has the last two years and doesn’t try to bite off more than he can chew,” Oswalt said.

“Last year, he killed us,” Jones said. “He scrambled all over the place. We couldn’t tackle him.”

Early season rivalry: The best part of an early season rivalry, both coaches said, is it puts more pressure on new players than a typical nondivision game would.

2018 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Week Zero game caps

“I like the early rivalry games,” Oswalt said. “Honestly you find out who your true guys are. ... You get live action and full speed, and you put a rivalry on top of that, so you get to see who rises to the occasion.”

“It gives you a target for the start of the year,” Jones said. “They’re a bigger school, but we have a chip on our shoulder. We have a lot of seniors, and we’re looking to have a better season this year. It all starts with this game.”

Kickoff at Central York is 7 p.m.

Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer