VIDEO: Jarred and Harris Kohl talk about being competitive, loving defense and York Catholic’s big game against Delone Friday. JACOB CALVIN MEYER, 717-505-5406
York Catholic head coach Eric Depew knows what can happen when the Irish overlook another team.
Last season, York Catholic lost 26-7 to Newport in the District 3 Class 2-A title game. Depew said it’s possible the Irish didn’t take the Buffaloes as seriously as they should have on the heels of a 51-21 district title victory over Newport the year before.
“They admitted they took Newport lightly last year,” Depew said. “We may have expected to beat them easily, and we didn’t.”
York Catholic (11-0) will hope that history won't repeat itself Friday against Delone Catholic (10-1) in the District 3 2-A championship game. The Fighting Irish are only three weeks removed from a York-Adams League Division III title-clinching win over the Squires.
“I don’t think that will be our mindset,” Depew said. “We are approaching it a little differently this year. We aren’t talking as much about the last game against Delone. We are just focusing on this game, but we did mention last year’s game (against Newport). We told them we have to go in with the mindset that we should go in with — that this is a championship game against a good team.
The first match-up: The game at York Catholic Stadium in October was expected to go either way. It wasn’t surprising that York Catholic won, but rather how the Irish earned the win. They dominated the Squires, 35-7. Running back Cole Witman rushed for 215 yards and two touchdowns, while the defense forced five turnovers.
In Delone’s other 10 games this season, the Squires have score 48.1 points per game and allowed only eight per game. The Fighting Irish also have an impressive point differential, but Delone’s is still 125 points better, despite the 28-point loss three weeks ago.
“You just don’t know what type of game it will be,” Depew said. “This is a game with the top two defenses in the league. They’re a solid team, and they can score points.”
Winning the turnover battle: Last week, York Catholic played in a heavy rain during its 21-0 win over Steel High, while Delone defeated Upper Dauphin on Saturday. Bad weather is expected again this Friday during the game at South Western High School.
“There is a possibility of rain or snow Friday, so we have to hold onto the ball,” Depew said. “We preach about turnovers and ball security. Most of it is mental.”
If there is one clear advantage the Irish have, it’s in the turnover department. While the Squires are plus-15 on the season, the Irish are a remarkable plus-29. York Catholic has forced 33 turnovers vs. four lost turnovers.
“The odds are in your favor if you get turnovers,” Depew said. “In a championship game, it’s about who doesn’t make those mistakes. You have to hold onto the ball. That’s the difference in these games.”
Senior leadership: Another important factor in championship games is experience. Both teams are senior-laden, with York Catholic sporting a 17-senior roster, while Delone has 14 seniors.
Both starting quarterbacks (Wesley Burns for the Irish and Evan Brady for the Squires) and both teams' running backs (Cole Witman and Massimo Antolick for York Catholic and Logan Brown and Tyler Monto for Delone) are seniors.
Burns is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 1,010 yards and 14 touchdowns vs. one interception, while Brady has thrown for 1,014 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Four of Brady's picks came in the previous meeting vs. the Irish. Witman and Antolick have combined for 1,057 yards and 15 scores, while Brown and Monto have totaled 1,860 yards and 21 TDs.
The defensive-minded Irish are also led by twin brothers Jarred and Harris Kohl. Both players are members of the offensive line, but the linebacker and defensive tackle are bruisers on defense.
“Leadership is the key,” Depew said. “Going into the season, we felt we had the players, but it comes down to leadership. It’s nice to have a mature, hard-working group of seniors.”
Depew said playing against Delone, which last won a district title in 2012, in the championship game is a testament to the strength of Y-A Division III. York Catholic is playing in its sixth straight district title game. It's only district title during that stretch came in 2016 vs. Newport.
“It should be a great football game. It should be a classic game,” Depew said. “It’s going be a hard, physical game. More than anything, I think it’s a great opportunity to show how tough our division is, where you have two teams playing for a district championship.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at email@example.com.