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Central York vs. York High: One game, two titles and a lifetime of bragging rights

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
  • Central York will play host to York High for the District 3 6-A football title at 7 Friday night.
  • Both teams enter the game at 7-0. The winner will also claim the York-Adams Division I crown.
  • The winner will also advance to the PIAA Class 6-A state quarterfinals.
York High's Jaheim White celebrates a touchdown during football action against Red Lion at Horn Field in Red Lion, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. York High would win the game 34-30. Dawn J. Sagert photo

During a normal season, York High and Central York don’t need any extra motivation when the teams meet.

For a second straight season, the Bearcats and Panthers  will play for the York-Adams League Division I title.

This year’s contest, however, has even more on the line for the neighborhood rivals.

The 2020 match-up of 7-0 teams will have added intensity because the winner will  claim the District 3 Class 6-A championship. No matter who wins, that will be a first for the program — and for the York-Adams League as a whole.

The winner will also advance to the PIAA Class 6-A state quarterfinals and  claim a lifetime of bragging rights.

York-Adams League excited for showcase in District 3 title game

Emotions will surely run high Friday night, but Central York coach Gerry Yonchiuk would prefer to have to calm his team down rather than amp them up for the 7 p.m. kickoff.

“I’d much rather take a team that’s overly excited than a team that you gotta light a fire under their butt to get them going,” Yonchiuk said.

Central York's Beau Pribula breaks away from Central Dauphin's Tyrell English during District 3, Class 6A semifinal action at George Ebersole Stadium in Harrisburg, Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Central York would win the game 42-15. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Experience may be key: That won’t be necessary for either coach this week. Both teams will hold nothing back in this game, but it might come down to the experience level of the athletes on the respective teams.

Central York features a loaded senior class and a star junior quarterback, with a number of players either committed to, or deciding on which, NCAA Division I football program they will join.

The Panthers have outscored the opposition this season, 396-25. York High has also dominated on the scoreboard but to a slightly lesser extent, 280-85.

Central York's Judah Tomb runs a York High kick-off back for a Panthers' touchdown, Friday October 25, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Conversely, the Bearcats feature several younger players at the skill positions. York High coach Russ Stoner said his team is like Central York’s 2019 squad, talented but lacking the benefits from playing in big games.

“We’re just going to do what we do,” Stoner said. “I feel like we’re a pretty good football team. Obviously they have a bunch of guys back from a championship team a year ago (and) have a bunch of (college scholarship) offered athletes. They have a plethora of dudes, and we’re going to hopefully be able to keep up with them and give them a game, or if nothing else, give them a great practice.”

HEISER: Friday's electrifying effort should help Central York's Judah Tomb get some notice

Yonchiuk expects the Bearcats to do much more than keep up with his team. In last season’s meeting, the Panthers picked up a 35-14 victory, due largely to York High’s inability to move the ball through the air and keep up offensively.

That may be a different story this time around. 

York High has sophomore standouts: Sophomore running back Jaheim White has been the Bearcats’ star with a league-leading 1,225 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging more than 11 yards per carry.

White's classmate, however, could be the key to a possible York High victory. Sophomore quarterback Sam Stoner was fifth in the league in passing yards (939) in his first season as a starter. He also has 14 TD passes and just two interceptions.

WEEKEND FOOTBALL ROUNDUP: Central York dominates, advances to District 3 6-A title game

Yonchiuk knows the Panthers will have issues if they sell out to shut down White.

“Their receivers are big-play weapons, so if you pack the box to stop the run — and teams have tried that — then they’re going to torch you over the top,” Yonchiuk said.

York High's Rashim Lee celebrates a touchdown earlier this season vs. Spring Grove.

Yonchiuk added that York High plays man defense and has the athletes to do so, which is something Central York hasn’t seen much this season.

The Bearcats secondary will be sorely tested by Central QB Beau Pribula, a Penn State recruit who has passed for 1,361 yards with 27 TDs and two picks, while completing 73% of his passes. In last week's dominating 42-15 victory over Central Dauphin in the district semifinals, he also rushed for nearly 150 yards.

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When the season began, neither team knew if it would even be able to finish the regular season, let alone compete for a district title.

Stoner didn’t think the teams had a chance to earn enough power-ratings points to reach the final four teams without playing each other during the regular season, but in an unprecedented year, they are the last two teams left standing. The two teams were scheduled to meet last Friday in the regular-season finale, but that contest wasn't played so both teams could compete in the district semifinals. Nevertheless, the two teams still got the chance to face off and determine two championships.

Special senior class at Central: When Yonchiuk took over the Panthers program, he always knew this was the goal for this year.

He said parents have told him this senior class has been highly anticipated since second grade, and now they get their chance to cross off a pair of their goals with one win.

“I really felt that if we did have an opportunity to play, we would be successful because of their belief,” Yonchiuk said. “They really wanted to prove something, especially when they heard how they got beat by Harrisburg (in 2019 in the district playoffs) and couldn’t step up to the next level. I really expected to play well, and they showed that definitely worked.”

— Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.