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 York’s final offensive drive against Dallastown Friday night probably isn’t the most memorable takeaway from the Panthers' 35-28 win over the Wildcats.
But it should be.
The nine-play, 46-yard drive to seal the victory was the epitome of Central York's offensive prowess — quarterback Cade Pribula’s poise, wide receiver Taylor Wright-Rawls’ talent and head coach Josh Oswalt’s aggressiveness.
“These guys are different,” Oswalt said. “This is my ninth year doing this as the head man, and they’re different. I’ve never seen a group so hungry to get better.”
How they got there: The Panthers took a 35-14 lead with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter, and it felt like the game was over. Pribula’s 1-yard QB sneak on fourth-and-goal seemingly clinched the victory for Central.
Dallastown and star running back Nyzair Smith, however, had different plans.
The Wildcats scored two straight touchdowns, with a Central punt sandwiched in between, to go down one score with 3:17 remaining and all three timeouts remaining.
To play conservatively or aggressively?: Most coaches, especially in high school, play this situation conservatively — run the ball and hope to gain first downs that way.
Central started the drive on its own 21-yard line, and the Panthers were hunting two first downs to win the game.
“I was nervous before the drive started,” Pribula said.
The first play the offense ran was a 3-yard run by running back Hunter Werner. For at least one play, it seemed possible that Oswalt would employ the conservative strategy, burn Dallastown’s timeouts and pray that his defense could prevent Smith from tying the game.
Pribula’s strike to Wright-Rawls: Dallastown took its first timeout, and Pribula told Oswalt on the sideline he wanted to catch the defense off guard and throw a short pass. Oswalt agreed about a pass, but he was thinking bigger.
“We’re either going to go big or go home,” he said after the game. “I wasn’t going to sit on my hands and let another team take over the momentum.”
Oswalt and his senior signal caller then agreed to run a choice route to Wright-Rawls, the leading receiving in the York-Adams League. Depending on the cornerback’s positioning, Wright-Rawls would either run a hitch or a fade.
“He said to me that big players make big plays,” said Wright-Rawls, who caught four passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
The corner was pressing Wright-Rawls, so Pribula, a University of Delaware commit, and Wright-Rawls checked at the line of scrimmage to run the fade. The sophomore wideout beat the corner off the snap, and the single high safety couldn’t reach Wright-Rawls in time to prevent the 31-yard first-down completion.
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
“Taylor did a great job, something that is beyond what a sophomore should be able to do,” Pribula said. “He was lined up against a senior and got off the ball and beat him. He wanted it. That was the biggest play of the game.”
Fourth-down conversion: The Panthers then got nine yards combined on two rushing plays, burning Dallastown’s last two timeouts and setting up a third-and-1 with about 2:30 remaining.
The Wildcats stuffed a fullback dive play out of the under-center, full-house formation to Will Van-Dyke to force a fourth-and-1 on the Dallastown 36-yard line.
Oswalt ran the play clock down and called a timeout to mull over the choice he had.
His defensive coaches were lobbying him to punt the ball and pin the Wildcats inside the 20, forcing the basically run-only offense to drive the length of the field in less than two minutes with no timeouts or a viable passing attack.
His offensive players were pushing to keep the result of the game in their hands, rather than handing it over the Smith and Dallastown’s blockers.
“It was Senior Night, and the offense wanted the ball in our hands,” Pribula said.
Oswalt, as he did with calling a pass earlier in the drive, chose the aggressive decision.
“I love our defense and how they’re playing right now, but I did not want to put the ball in the hands of No. 9 (Smith) with the opportunity of tying the game and carrying momentum into (overtime),” Oswalt said.
Oswalt called a quarterback sweep, or a “student body left” out of the pistol full-house formation as the play. Pribula, who threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns while also running for two scores, easily gained nine yards on the play for the first down and the win.
“We had Ian McNaughton and we put Isaiah Stugis in there, who hadn’t played a snap on offense all night, and he threw a block,” Oswalt said. “Josh (Gaffney), our sophomore left tackle, also got the edge for us.”
Pribula said the first-down play wasn’t purely a product of the team’s execution, but rather the culmination of months of hard work.
“That didn’t happen tonight,” Pribula said. “That happened this summer in the weight room, and coach Oswalt pushing us to be here every day in the summer. I love my line, and they blocked their (butts) off, not just on that play, but all game.
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.