VIDEO: York High head coach Russ Stoner talks after the Bearcats claim a share of the D-I title with a 54-14 win over Central York York Dispatch
York Catholic quarterback Wes Burns admitted that he hopes it’s 72 degrees and sunny every Friday night during football season.
While the undefeated Irish employ a run-heavy offense, the senior signal caller is having an impressive season, completing just under 70 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns vs. one interception.
Burns knows, however, that Mother Nature doesn’t care what he wants.
He also knows that bad weather, like the near-flood-level rainfall that was poured on York County last Friday, benefits the defensive-minded Irish.
“We embrace whatever the conditions are going to be,” Burns said. “We aren’t going to be scared of the rain. We get to roll around in the mud and win games, hard-nosed and physical.”
With buckets of rain being dropped at York Catholic, the Fighting Irish (11-0) defeated Steel-High 21-0 in the District 3 Class 2-A semifinals. Unlike many other programs in the area, the Irish still sport a traditional grass field, which Burns said was turned into a mud pit on Friday.
“I think it does benefit us,” said Burns, who ran for a touchdown in the victory. “There have been several games where we played in the rain: Trinity, (York) Tech, Bermudian (Springs), Susquehannock. We’ve been in a lot of conditions. We’ve been running well, and we have a physical defense.”
York High welcomes heavy rain: In downtown York, where 2.6 inches of rain was dropped during the two-hour Class 5-A first-round game between York High (10-1) and Northern York, the Bearcats also took the bad conditions in stride. The defense allowed only seven points, and Dayjure Stewart ran for a district playoff record 486 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries in the Bearcats’ 42-7 win.
“I think the way you’re successful as a football program is you have to have the mentality that nothing is going to bother you,” York High head coach Russ Stoner said. “You have to be a playmaker, whether it’s 15 degrees or 84 degrees, or whether it’s raining or not. If you have that mentality, you have a chance to win.”
Last season, the Bearcats lost 56-7 to Governor Mifflin in the first round of the District 3 playoffs. Stoner said it was 15 degrees at kickoff and that game taught his players a valuable lesson.
“It’s an experience thing,” Stoner said. “Once you learn it doesn’t matter what the weather is, the better off you are. The more you have a chance to play in those games, the better experience you get for the playoffs.”
Ball security: While both teams came out with victories, York High lost three fumbles, while York Catholic didn’t turn the ball over once.
Stoner said the Bearcats will practice in the rain this week to prepare for a possible rain contest at Shippensburg (10-1) on Friday in the quarterfinals.
“We’ll talk about it again, and we’ll go out and practice in the rain,” Stoner said. “That will help us coach those things up so it’s not a foreign thing on Friday night again.”
He said what’s important is for skill position players not to wear gloves or sleeves when it’s raining.
“One of the biggest things you have to convince young guys is you can’t wear gloves or sleeves, because it’s leather on leather and it becomes slippery,” Stoner said.
York Catholic head coach Eric Depew said the key to his team’s triumph was a plus-six turnover differential. The Irish have turned the ball over only three times all season and have yet to lose a single fumble.
“You just have to tell them that you have to secure the football. If you can’t secure the football, that’s a big factor,” Depew said. “We’ve been fortunate, we’ve only turned the ball over three times this year. We haven’t had a fumble all year. It’s about the fundamentals.”
Giving credit to ball boys: Both Stoner and Depew gave credit to people on their sidelines who often go unnoticed — the ball boys.
“Maybe the most important people are our ball boys,” Stoner said. “My son and another coach’s son are keeping the balls dry. That’s a huge part of it.”
There's a chance of rain again on Friday night, when York Catholic takes on Delone Catholic (10-1), the team they defeated to claim the York-Adams League Division III title, at South Western High School for the District 3 Class 2-A title.
“(The weather) isn’t going to faze us,” Depew said. “If anything, it should excite us more. I think any team that can run the football, any kind of weather gives you the advantage. Rain games, snow games, windy games, you’ve got to be able to run the football.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at email@example.com.