VIDEO: Central head coach Josh Oswalt discusses the Panthers’ 35-28 win over Dallastown, WR Taylor Wright-Rawls and the importance of turnovers. JACOB CALVIN MEYER, 717-505-5406/@jcalvinmeyer
The loss to Dallastown last season was in the back of Central York's mind Friday night.
The Panthers were down two points at halftime last season, only to be outscored 22-7 in the second half to lose their first division game of the season. Central lost the next week, too, and narrowly missed a District 3 playoff berth.
With this year’s contest against the Wildcats tied at halftime, and a division title since up for grabs, it would again come down to who played better in the second half – as most good football games do.
“This year had a different feeling,” said senior quarterback Cade Pribula.
Central came out firing in the second half, scoring 21 unanswered points and holding on for a 35-28 victory.
“This whole week we were harping on how they beat us last year,” said wide receiver Taylor Wright-Rawls, who caught two touchdown passes. “Our mentality was to come out and do the same thing they did to us.”
Central head coach Josh Oswalt said he did, indeed, talk to the younger players like Wright-Rawls, a sophomore, about last year’s heartbreaking defeat.
“We wanted to make sure (the younger players) understood how bad that loss hurt,” Oswalt said. “We were in a position to punch our ticket to make the playoffs going into Week Nine on Senior Night, just like tonight, and we didn’t get it done. … We wanted to remind them about the ugly and keep them hungry and motivated and focused moving forward.”
With the victory, the Panthers likely earned a District 3 playoff berth and will play York High next week in a game that will, in part, decide the outcome of the D-I title hunt.
Wildcats take an early lead: Dallastown started the game at Central York about as well as it could have hoped.
The Wildcats forced the Pribula-led Panthers to punt on each of their first two drives, scoring a touchdown on a 60-yard drive after the second punt.
Nyzair Smith, who looked every bit of a future Division I running back all night, ran for 54 of the 60 yards, with Jordan Cook capping the drive with a 1-yard QB sneak.
Panthers strike back: The Wildcats pressured Pribula on the first two drives, but the University of Delaware commit bounced back on the next drive, completing a 32-yard pass to Wright-Rawls for a touchdown. Central stacked Wright-Rawls, who caught four passes for 116 yards, and Saahir Cornelius out wide against Dallastown’s Cover 0 defense with no high safety.
VIDEO: Central York QB Cade Pribula discusses the Panthers’ 35-28 win over Dallastown, WR Taylor Wright-Rawls and his own scrambling ability. JACOB CALVIN MEYER, @jcalvinmeyer
Central scored to take a 14-7 in the second quarter. Pribula, who totaled 80 yards and two scores on 18 carries, ran for a 6-yard score on the 26-yard drive that was set up by an interception by freshman Beau Pribula, Cade Pribula’s younger brother.
“He’s not a freshman anymore,” Oswalt said. “We’re in Week Nine. That kid has seen more varsity football than most. … We knew what they liked to do in a third-and-long situation, and he put himself in a position to make a play on that ball.”
Less than a minute before halftime, Dallastown tied the game on a 6-yard rushing score by Smith to cap off the 17-play, 80-yard drive. Every play on the drive was a run except one swing pass.
Central forces turnovers: The Wildcats started the second half with the ball, but the Panthers forced a fumble two plays into the drive. Cornelius recovered the loose ball to give Central possession.
“The turnover the first series of the half killed. That was agonizingly bad,” said Dallastown head coach Ron Miller. “You can’t turn the ball over in games like this. … You can’t give Cade and that offense the ball like that, and they took advantage of it.”
Cade Pribula and Wright-Rawls connected on a 36-yard pass to put the Panthers in the red zone and then a 17-yard completion to give Central a 21-14 lead.
The Panthers were on the far-right hash mark with Wright-Rawls out wide left. Cade Pribula, who completed 15 of 23 pass attempts for 246 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, looked off the single-high safety and then threw a strike to his sophomore wideout running a corner post.
After Central’s defense forced a turnover on downs on their own 30-yard line, the Panthers drove 70 yards to take a two-score lead. The last seven plays for 43 yards came on the ground, with senior running back Hunter Werner finishing it with a 7-yard score.
Central’s third forced turnover came on the next drive, when Cook’s option pitch to Smith was too high and the senior runner couldn’t corral it, and linebacker Anthony Tsirigos recovered the loose ball.
“Two of those turnovers we turned into points,” Oswalt said. “That’s huge. That changes a game. Momentum is everything, especially this time of the year.”
Cade Pribula then put the Panthers up three scores with 9:49 left in the game after a 1-yard QB sneak on fourth-and-goal.
Naz’s impressive night: Smith broke off a 58-yard touchdown run on the first play of Dallastown’s next drive to bring the Wildcats within 14 points. The senior running back totaled 281 yards and three touchdowns on 44 carries.
“Is he a machine? Are you kidding me?,” said Oswalt. “He touched the ball 50 times. That’s incredible. He’s the best back I’ve seen in high school football since Chase Edmonds at Central Dauphin East, who is now playing in the (NFL for the Arizona Cardinals). Kudos to him. That kid is tough.”
The long run was one of only two carries Smith had for over 20 yards all night – an accomplishment for a defense against a back as talented as Smith.
“I’m so proud of (the defense),” Cade Pribula said. “They worked so hard. He’s such a terrific back, probably one of the best, if not the best, York County has ever seen. … We stepped up as a team, and it took all 11 to stop him.”
Dallastown's comeback too little, too late: After Dallastown forced a Central punt, the Wildcats trekked 82 yards on 15 plays (all rushing) to score with 3:17 remaining. Smith scored his third touchdown, this time from 9 yards out, to make the score 35-28. The drive, however, took about five minutes of precious time off the clock.
“The second drive we scored on, it took a little bit longer,” Miller said. “We weren’t able to go as u tempo as we wanted to do.”
Central then got two first downs on its next drive to seal the victory.
The Panthers travel to York High next week for a match-up between two of the three teams tied for first in the division. The winner of the game guarantees itself at least a share of the title with Red Lion. If the Lions lose to Dallastown, the winner of the game at Small Field will decide the outright D-I champion.
“We could back our way in and lose next week, but I’m not about doing that,” Oswalt said. “We’re going to prepare and take care of business. Winning is our best option and what puts us in position to win the next week.”
A Dallastown win next week against Red Lion, Miller believes, would give the Wildcats a fighting chance to get into the District 3 playoffs.
Dallastown 7 7 14 7 — 35
Central York 7 7 0 14 — 28
Central: Taylor Wright-Rawls 32-yard pass from Cade Pribula (Nick Basile kick), 2:22 (DT 7, CY 7)
Dallastown: Smith 58-yard run (Fullerton kick), 9:33 (CY 35, DT 21)
Total offense: 380 yards (6 passing, 374 rushing)
Sacks: 2 for 5 yards
Total offense: 370 yards (246 passing, 124 rushing)
Jordan Cook: 2-8 passing, 6 yards, INT; 16 carries, 65 yards, TD, 2 fumbles
Nyzair Smith: 44 carries, 281 yards, 3 TDs; 1 reception, 5 yards
David Geppi: 1 reception, 1 yard
Malik Key: 6 carries, 28 yards
Cade Pribula: 15-23 passing, 246 yards, 2 TDs, INT; 18 carries, 80 yards (sacked twice for -5 yards), 2 TDs
Hunter Werner: 14 carries, 46 yards, TD
Taylor Wright-Rawls: 4 receptions, 116 yards, 2 TDs
Saahir Cornelius: 5 receptions, 73 yards; fumble recovery
Beau Pribula: 3 receptions, 40 yards; interception
Reid Hershner: 3 receptions, 17 yards
Will Van-Dyke: 2 carries, 4 yards
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at email@example.com