It’s only three games into the season, but Friday night could ultimately decide the York-Adams League Division I championship.
Central York (2-1) travels to Red Lion (3-0) when league play begins, and both teams are considered major contenders for the division crown.
Both teams also enter the contest off close victories.
Red Lion has won or shared the D-I crown in two of the last three years. Central is looking for its first D-I crown since 2013, which was second of two straight division championships for the Panthers.
Last week, the Lions beat Chambersburg, 26-21, on a late 80-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Nic Shultz to junior wide receiver Davante Dennis. Having juniors and seniors at key positions, with the experience of having played in big games, is the biggest difference heading into this week's game for Central York coach Josh Oswalt.
“They’re finding ways to win games in tight situations and they’ve been challenged,” Oswalt said of Red Lion, which also owns a 14-12 win vs. Waynesboro. “With their experience, they were able to find a way to win in those tough situations, where we were 1-1 in that scenario.”
Central, meanwhile, has a relatively young team, led by talented sophomore quarterback Beau Pribula. Oswalt, however, said his team has already learned about the importance of focusing on every play and making sure the job is done right.
“Understanding that the smallest things and the minute details can make a large impact in a huge game,” Oswalt said. “When you’re playing tough competition and you make a small mistake, it can be exploited into the biggest mistake.”
The Panthers made plenty of mistakes, including five turnovers, in a heartbreaking 13-12 loss to Cumberland Valley in their second game. They bounced back, however, to outlast Hempfield a week ago, 30-28.
Shay sees no drop off at QB for Central: Last year, Red Lion rolled past the Panthers, 56-28, en route to earning a share of the D-I title with York High. Red Lion head coach Jesse Shay said there are some things to take away from the film of last year’s game, but he also said the Panthers’ offense has changed significantly because of the skills that Beau Pribula possesses that are different from his brother, Cade Pribula, who was Central's starting QB in 2018. Cade has since moved on to the University of Delaware.
Beau Pribula has shown the ability to throw the ball, but where he differentiates himself from his brother most, according to Shay, is his ability to take off and make a play with his legs. Although he has only started three games, Shay didn’t see a decline in the Panthers’ offense under the younger Pribula.
“I don’t see a drop off,” Shay said. “You would think that going from a senior, (NCAA) Division I player to a sophomore, it would be a dramatic drop off and it’s absolutely not.”
Shultz also a threat for Red Lion with his arm and his legs: One thing that could help Red Lion prepare for the battle against Beau Pribula and his ability to run the ball is its own quarterback — Shultz.
Known primarily for his athletic ability, Shultz has racked up 263 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in his first season as the Lions’ starter. While he is always a threat to run the ball, Shultz showed against Chambersburg that his right arm can be just as dangerous.
Shultz, in his first season as the Red Lion starting quarterback, threw for 286 yards and four touchdowns, with another 46 yards on the ground. He led his team to a comeback drive that sealed the win and impressed Oswalt.
“You wouldn’t think that he is a first-year starter,” Oswalt said. “He was able to manage the game and put together some nice drives to win the game late. He stepped up and he looked good.”
Keys to the game: For Oswalt, the key to leaving Horn Field with a 1-0 Division I record is for the young Panthers to limit turnovers and stay focused on their responsibilities on each play.
Meanwhile, Shay stressed to his team that the tremendous victory over Chambersburg is in the past and their attention needs to be on beating Central York.
“We know how important it is now that we’re starting division play to come out and not allow ourselves a hangover from last week’s big win.”
Reach Rob Rose at email@example.com.