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Central York's Pribula, Cornelius forge strong aerial connection in season-opening win

JACOB CALVIN MEYER
717-505-5406/@jcalvinmeyer
  • Central York earned a 38-14 season-opening football win vs. West York on Friday.
  • Central QB Cade Pribula and Panthers wideout Saahir Cornelius enjoyed strong performances.
  • Pribula threw for 334 yards, including 179 receiving yards from Cornelius.

In Cade Pribula’s first two seasons for Central York, the quarterback established himself as one of the best players in the York-Adams League.

All good quarterbacks know, however, that they’re only as good as their receivers.

In his first two years as the Panthers’ signal caller, Pribula had a handful of trustworthy pass catchers. All of those wideouts, however, graduated earlier this year.

Central York's Saahir Cornelius, left, runs the ball for a touchdown while West York's Shane Kauffman, center, and Tyshaun Powel defend during football action at Central York High School in Springettsbury Township, Friday, Aug. 25, 2018. Central York would win the game 38-14. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Of Pribula’s 1,748 passing yards and 17 touchdowns last year, only 64 of the yards and none of the touchdowns returned with him. His favorite target last season was Tim Sturgis, who caught 23 passes for 765 yards and 11 touchdowns.

With no receiver with significant varsity playing time returning in 2018, Central head coach Josh Oswalt hoped that someone would step up in the Panthers’ first game on Friday night against West York.

Big plays lead Central to win over West York

Cornelius emerges: That someone was Saahir Cornelius, who caught five passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns in Central’s 38-14 win over West York.

“It’s just special to see,” Oswalt said. “The timing was there. We just had to figure out what was working, and Saahir was the hot hand.”

Cornelius caught only two passes for negative two yards in his varsity career before the game.

“We definitely have a lot of youth in our receivers,” said Pribula, who completed 12 of 19 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns. “I don’t think my receivers have caught a downfield varsity pass until tonight. Saahir played really well tonight and got open.”

New connection starts fast: Pribula, a University of Delaware commit, and Cornelius’ connection started in the first quarter, when Pribula threw a dime to Cornelius on a corner route. Cornelius then outran the Bulldogs for the 79-yard touchdown.

“After that, I got comfortable,” Cornelius. “I was really nervous at first, but then I started to get the feel of it after that.”

Central York's Cade Pribula, back, looks to pass to Saahir Cornelius in a game earlier this season. Pribula and surpassed former York Suburban passer Thomas Merkle for most passing yards for a York County signal caller. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Cornelius’ second touchdown of the game was the back breaker for the Bulldogs. West York, with the chance to go down by only one score, was stopped on downs in the red zone halfway through the third quarter. Central then drove 93 yards downfield, capped off with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Pribula to Cornelius, to go ahead 24-6.

Cornelius caught a short out route near the sideline and used his speed and agility to dodge several West York defenders for the score.

“When you have a guy like that who is slippery and can wiggle, those guys are special,” Oswalt said.

For Cornelius, his philosophy as a big-play wideout is simple.

“I’m looking to score every single time I touch the rock,” Cornelius said.

Cornelius’ best catch of the day, though, was a 42-yard reception on a seam route to set up Central’s game-clinching touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The 5-foot, 11-inch receiver had three of Central’s five plays of more than 40 yards.

Central York celebrates a touchdown made by Saahir Cornelius, front right, during football action against West York at Central York High School in Springettsbury Township, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. Central York would win the game 38-14. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Ability to run after catch: Pribula said having receivers who can run after the catch, such as Cornelius, can help him as a quarterback, knowing he doesn’t have to throw a deep ball to have a big play.

“It really helps break down a defense,” Pribula said. “All of our receivers are great athletes, and he’s probably the best one. He’s so shifty, and that helps him get open and after he catches the ball.”

Confidence stems from basketball season: Oswalt said he knew Cornelius was talented last season, but Cornelius took a while to learn the offense and was behind a large group of senior wideouts. It was on the basketball court last season, Oswalt said, that he saw Cornelius’ confidence grow.

“I really like to urge multi-sport athletes,” Oswalt said. “When you’re just in the gym, you don’t get that competition. He really came into his own on the court, and that made me excited for this year.”

Central York's Saahir Cornelius runs the ball for a touchdown during football action against West York at Central York High School in Springettsbury Township, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. Central York would win the game 38-14. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Young wideouts: Pribula was excited to throw to Cornelius back in March when Pribula and the wideouts, including his younger brother Beau Pribula and Taylor Wright-Rawls, started getting together to practice. Pribula said the work with the receivers have made them a “tight-knit group.”

“It feels like I’ve thrown to (Cornelius) many times before this game,” Pribula said. “It didn’t feel like the first time.”

Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at jmeyer@yorkdispatch.com.