This isn’t how it was supposed to end for the York High senior class.
York High coach Russ Stoner’s first group of seniors to graduate brought the program from the basement of York-Adams League Division I to a contender for the league title each year.
The group’s final game on their home field was far from a ceremonial send off. York High lost its District 3 Class 5-A first-round playoff game to Exeter Township, 42-14, on Friday night.
“I am proud of them. They have done exactly what we have asked them to do,” Stoner said of his seniors. “I didn’t want them to go off like this, but it is what it is, and I told them, ‘The sun is going to come up tomorrow.’”
A comeback chance: Although the first half featured five turnovers by York High (7-4) and began with a successful onside kick by Exeter (8-3) to open the game, the Bearcats had a chance to tie the game just before halftime.
After York High senior cornerback Marcellus John returned an interception for a touchdown and the Bearcats defense gave the offense the ball back, there was a chance to head into the locker with momentum on their side.
Senior quarterback Tobee Stokes launched a pass down the field looking to make a play. Instead of connecting with a receiver, it was Exeter cornerback Nick Schafer who came down with the pass, his second interception of the game.
The following play was a 52-yard touchdown pass from Exeter quarterback Gavin McCusker to wide receiver Devon Scott. The momentum was firmly planted on the Eagles’ sideline and stayed there for the rest of the night.
Second-half struggle: The Eagles ran through a banner typically used during pregame coming out of the locker room at halftime and then ran through the Bearcats’ defense on the field.
Exeter running back Tyler Yocum punched in a 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter and McCusker began the fourth quarter with his second touchdown toss of the game, a 48-yard strike to receiver Joey Schlaffer, who tipped the ball up to himself and caught it before breaking through Bearcat tackles and finding the end zone.
Later in the fourth quarter, Exeter running back Wender Polanco became the third Eagles runner to score, helping the lead balloon to 42-7.
“To be an elite program, we gotta learn how to not implode,” Stoner said. “In all of our losses this year, it’s all about us imploding.”
Stokes found Jacquez Simmon for a 15-yard touchdown pass on the Bearcats’ final drive. The senior quarterback struggled in his final game, with a 2-for-11 night with 17 passing yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Being a Bearcat: Fellow senior Trey Bernstein was sad to see his high school career end in such devastating fashion on his home field. While the lineman was upset about how the season closed, Bernstein will always remember his teammates and coaches.
“I never thought it was going to end,” Bernstein said. “It feels like a fairy tale. I played four years, never missed a game (and) I loved it so much. I will never put this helmet on again. I will never come in and suit up with these shoulder pads and this jersey. It will never be the same and I will miss it forever.”
Despite the defeat, Stoner was proud of his team and was excited for the future of the program. With the string of successful seasons this senior class had, Stoner is ready for the next generation of Bearcats to continue what this group started.
“We’re not going anywhere soon,” Stoner said.
Exeter Township 7 14 7 14 - 42
York High 0 7 0 7 - 14
ET - 40-yard TD run by Jeremiah Nixon
ET - 7-yard TD run by Jeremiah Nixon
YH - Marcellus John interception return TD
ET - 52-yard TD pass from Gavin McCusker to Devon Scott
ET - Tyler Yocum 2-yard TD run
ET - 48-yard TD pass from Gavin McCusker to Joey Schlaffer
ET - 5-yard TD run by Wender Polanco
YH - 15-yard TD pass from Tobee Stokes to Jacquez Simmon
Reach Rob Rose at email@example.com.