York Catholic head coach Eric Depew discusses the state of the Fighting Irish program after a 56-23 playoff loss to powerhouse Southern Columbia. JACOB CALVIN MEYER, 717-505-5406/@jcalvinmeyer
There are no York-Adams League teams still alive in the PIAA football playoffs.
When reflecting on the two York County teams which advanced the furthest in the postseason, it shows that there's more than one way to win football games.
York High, which shared the York-Adams Division I crown with Red Lion and advanced to the semifinals of the District 3 Class 5-A playoffs, was flashy and could make a game-defining play at any moment.
York Catholic, which won both Division III and District 3 titles before losing in the first round of the PIAA Class 2-A tournament, didn’t have the big-play offense. Rather, the Irish won games with an excellent defense.
What the two teams did share, however, was two strong senior classes that will be difficult to replace. York High will have to replace Dayjure Stewart and Rob Rideout, among others, while York Catholic is losing an 18-player senior class headlined by twins Jarred and Harris Kohl.
“It’s a big class,” York Catholic head coach Eric Depew said. “That’s my biggest since I’ve been here. We might only have 11 or 12 juniors, so it’ll be a smaller senior class (next year). It’s going to be hard (the next year) after you lose that many seniors.”
Strong senior class: Sophomore quarterback Mitchell Galentine, who is in his first season with the Irish and split time with senior Wes Burns, said it’s now up to the junior and sophomore classes to carry on the attributes of the seniors.
“This senior class is amazing,” Galentine said. “The 18 seniors are very tough and hard working. A lot of the values that they brought to this program are going to be passed down to my class.”
The Fighting Irish’s undefeated season came to an end last Saturday in a quarterfinal loss to powerhouse Southern Columbia.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Depew said. “We had a great season: 12-0, win the division, win the district and do that. That’s a great accomplishment.”
While Depew has coached York Catholic teams to the state playoffs before, he’s never won 12 games in a season before.
“Record wise, this is the best team,” he said. “It’s one of the top teams I’ve been involved in. It’s a very special group. All the groups I’ve been with I care for deeply. I love these guys.”
With Southern Columbia leading 56-23 late in the game at Shamokin High School, Depew called a timeout to pull some seniors on defense, including the Kohls, the co-Division III Defensive Players of the Year. The twin brothers were the best players on a defense that allowed less than 10 points a game going into the game against a Tigers team that has several NCAA Division I players.
Other graduating seniors include Burns and running backs Cole Witman and Massimo Antolick.
“It was special for those guys to come off,” Depew said. “They were a little upset, but (the seniors) gave their hearts and souls to this program. They were the keystone to this program. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.”
Getting Galentine reps: Galentine and Burns split time for much of the season, including in the first half of the game against Southern Columbia. In the second half, however, Galentine, the likely quarterback next season with Burns graduating, took most of the snaps and scored two touchdowns against the Tigers’ second-team defense.
“We liked what we saw with Mitchell getting some carries,” Depew said. “I thought he had some good things. He had some good reads. He did well.”
“I felt good,” Galentine said. “I was happy I can get some reps in a big game like this. Hopefully that experience will prepare me better for next year.”
While Depew said after the game that Southern Columbia is “a different type of beast,” he also noted that the road to advancing in the 2-A state playoffs will always run through the Tigers.
“We knew going in what we would be dealing with, but they’re in our classification and we’re going to have to get over that hump,” he said.
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.