Central York hopes to prove it can compete with, and beat, any team in District 3
- Central York is at Central Dauphin Friday night in a District 3 Class 6-A semifinal.
- Central York is 6-0 and Central Dauphin is 5-0. CD is ranked No. 2 in the state in 6-A.
- York-Adams League teams are 0-7 in District 3 6-A games since the class was started in 2016.
- A Y-A team has never won a football title in the largest class in the district playoffs.
The Central York High School players don’t need to be reminded.
They are fully aware of their program's struggles — and the struggles of the other big schools in the York-Adams League — in the District 3 playoffs.
Panthers’ coach Gerry Yonchiuk said that the players used their postseason shortcomings as motivation this summer. Still, the focus on Friday night in a District 3 Class 6-A semifinal game will not be on the past, but on their opponent, second-seeded Central Dauphin.
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The third-seeded Panthers want to do whatever is necessary to capture that elusive District 3 Class 6-A win. The Y-A teams have gone 0-7 on the field since the 6-A division was started in 2016 and no Y-A team has ever won a title in the largest classification offered by the district at the time, be it 3-A, 4-A or 6-A.
“I know they’re a great team, a great program. I know their staff. They’re awesome, but our team is awesome, so I think it’s a great matchup and I’m hoping it can be one heck of a football game,” Yonchiuk said.
Hoping to prove they're a different team: Junior quarterback Beau Pribula was on the field for last season’s 47-14 playoff loss at Harrisburg and the 2018 postseason defeat at Central Dauphin, 49-21. The Penn State recruit and his teammates are motivated to return to the Rams’ field and prove they are a different team this time around.
“I remember playing in that game, it was a rough game,” Pribula said of the 2018 contest. “It’s definitely in the back of our minds. A lot of the starters that play now played in that game and really just want to come back and have a much better game and come out competing.”
Improved mindset: One reason Yonchiuk believes his 6-0 team is ready to finally beat a Mid-Penn power and reach the district title game is the mindset of his players.
The first-year Central coach said he believed the Panthers were intimidated by Harrisburg’s size and speed last season, but after an offseason of weight lifting and conditioning, the Panthers believe they have the skills to play with any team, even a 5-0 Central Dauphin outfit that is ranked No. 2 in the state in 6-A, is the defending District 3 6-A champion and made the state title game in 2019.
“I think the difference between this year and last year is the maturity physically and mentally,” Yonchiuk said. “Last year they were an awesome team, (but this season) we’re a step above, not because of anything I have done, but what they have done. They have bought into everything we asked and they are stronger and physical.”
Setting up a possible showdown with York High: If Central York defeats Central Dauphin, it would set up a showdown for the district title and Y-A Division I title with York High (6-0).
The Bearcats have already advanced to the title game because Harrisburg was forced to forfeit because of a positive COVID-19 test. Top-seeded Harrisburg and fourth-seeded York High were originally slated to face off in the other 6-A semifinal on Saturday.
Yonchiuk said it would be the perfect scenario to play their rivals in the district title game, but added that if the all-York County district final doesn't come off, the teams still hope to play this season once postseason play ends for both programs.
Although the Panthers weren’t challenged during the regular season, outscoring their foes 354-10 and allowing just one touchdown in six games, Pribula said the team is ready to perform at the level needed to win a playoff game vs. a highly-regarded foe.
Yonchiuk added that the junior quarterback’s preparation is so impressive that he has earned his coach’s trust to audible out of play calls if he sees a weak spot in the defense. Pribula's standout numbers (24 touchdowns, two interceptions, 73% completion percentage, 1,170 passing yards) would certainly indicate he's deserving of that trust.
Poised for big things: Central York believes this standout senior class, with the junior Pribula at quarterback, is poised to do big things.
Friday night is the chance to prove they're right and the doubters are wrong. If the Panthers can continue to execute with the same success they have all season, it could be the last year they have to hear about not being able to win a district 6-A playoff game.
“Preparing for each game this year is basically another faceless opponent,” Pribula said. “We’re (always) preparing as if it’s a playoff game, so it’s another week this week. It’s a big one and we’re excited.”
Reach Rob Rose at email@example.com.