HANOVER — Ever since taking down their rivals from Delone Catholic in Week 9 of the regular season, the York Catholic football team had one goal — win a District 3 Class 2-A title.
For the Irish to do that, they’d have to knock off the Squires one more time in the district final on a cold and wet evening at South Western High School Friday.
After getting off to a quick start, the Irish found the sledding against their rivals to be a lot tougher the second time around. The Squires had an answer for each of the Irish’s three touchdowns in regulation, including a game-tying score with 58 seconds left in regulation.
In overtime, however, the York Catholic’s biggest strength all season long — its defense — stood tall. A big stop on first down put the Squires behind the chains right away before three straight incomplete passes sealed a thrilling 28-21 triumph.
“We just got it done tonight,” said York Catholic senior running back Cole Witman, who ran for 167 yards on 26 carries. “We were just hungry.”
Not as easy this time: It definitely wasn’t easy. Just three weeks before the Irish (12-0) rolled to an unexpectedly easy 35-7 triumph in what amounted to the Division III championship game. But in the district final Friday, Witman and his teammates were unable to shake off a Squire side that just as hungry for revenge.
"For two teams in the same division to battle to overtime, what a way to win it," York Catholic head coach Eric Depew said. "We got the touchdown there and it was such a great way to end it, with our defense. All year we defensive with solid special teams."
Witman capped off an eight-play, 74-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run on the first possession of the contest that put the Irish ahead 7-0. After the teams traded punts on their next possessions, the Squires (10-2) evened things up on the first play of the second quarter on a 1-yard run by quarterback Evan Brady.
The Irish responded back on the following possession when Witman scored his second touchdown of the night on a 52-yard run. That score came one play after Delone was penalized for jumping offsides on a third-and-2.
Delone loses star running back: York Catholic looked to extend its lead late in the first half but a 37-yard field goal attempt was wide left. That set up perhaps the biggest non-scoring play of the night for the Squires. Just trying to see if they could break out for a big play with under a minute left in the half, Delone not only coughed up the ball, but lost standout senior running back Logan Brown in the process.
“We didn't want to do anything risky, just run some base offense to see if we could spring (Brown) free without putting the ball in their hands," Delone coach Corey Zortman said. “That's a tough way for a great kid to end his high school football career. He was pretty devastated."
Brown was put into concussion protocol immediately after the play, which extended into the intermission when the Irish were unable to make anything happen.
Squires inspired in second half: The loss of Brown, however, seemed to inspire the rest of the Squires in the second half. Delone marched down the field to begin the third quarter with a six-play, 77-yard drive that was capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by Tyler Monto.
The Irish took advantage of a poor snap on a punt deep in Squire territory to regain the lead. Mitchell Galentine, the running QB in YC’s two-headed quarterbacking scheme, finished a short 33-yard drive with a 1-yard score late in the third quarter to put the Irish up 21-14.
Another YC field goal try came up short midway through the fourth-quarter, and the Squires rallied to tie the score up. Aided by two big penalties on the YC defense, Delone quarterback Evan Brady finished an eight-play, 80-yard drive by finding Monto on a 23-yard touchdown reception with 58 seconds left in regulation.
After the Irish’s last-gasp attempt to break the tie failed when Brady intercepted a pass on the last play of regulation, the two sides went into overtime.
The overtime: Delone won the coin-toss and decided to go on defense to begin the extra session. It didn’t work out well. Galentine started off the drive from the 10-yard line with an 8-yard run. Two runs by Witman capped off the drive to put the Irish ahead for good.
"He's a bigger type kid and a run threat," Depew said of his decision to put Galentine behind center in OT. "We saw some things with the linebackers playing a little out there. It was a gut feeling to go with him to start the drive."
While the Irish got off to a great start on their first play, the Squires were saddled when Joe Hernandez was tacked for a five-yard loss. That forced the Squires into pass-mode, something that worked quite well during regulation. But Brady was unable to complete any of his final three attempts, the last one getting knocked down in the end zone to preserve a thrilling triumph for the Irish.
“This is something that the guy’s made as a goal,” DePew said. “Going 12-0 is something these guys wanted.”
The Irish will now have a week to sit back and rest before their PIAA 2-A quarterfinal contest against the District 4 champion in two weeks.
Delone Catholic 0 7 7 7 0 - 21
York Catholic 7 7 7 0 7 - 28
YC - Cole Witman 1 run (Nick DeMarco kick), 8:19
DC - Evan Brady 1 run (Tony Espinoza kick), 11:59
YC - Cole Witman 52 run (DeMarco kick), 8:19
DC - Tyler Monto 2 run (Espinoza kick), 9:27
YC - Mitchell Galentine 1 run (DeMarco kick), 2:37
DC - Monto 23 pass from Brady (Espinoza kick), :58
YC - Witman 1 run (DeMarco kick)
First downs 12 16
Rushing 39-127 44-207
Passing 5-9-1 7-19-1
Passing yards 105 116
Total yards 232 323
Fumbles-lost 3-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 4-33 4-57
Punting 4-32.5 4-36.2
Rushing: DC – Monto 14-51, Joe Hernandez 9-35, Logan Brown 7-35, A.J. Knobloch 1-12, Brady 7-(-1), Team 1-(-5); YC – Witman 26-167, Burns 8-(-7), Galentine 6-41, Massimo Antillock 3-5, Andrew Adams 1-1.
Passing: DC - Brady 5-9-1,105; YC – Burns 7-19-1, 116.
Receiving: DC – Ryan Myers 1-32, Marcello Malvone 1-26, Monto 1-23, Hernandez 1-16, Mason Clabuagh 1-8; YC – Benjamin Nelson 2-40, Manuel Montes 2-38, Noah Kiel 2-27, Witman 1-11.