Central York dominates second half to advance to state 6-A football semifinals
- Central York claimed a 49-27 football victory over Delaware Valley on Saturday.
- The victory came in a PIAA Class 6-A state quarterfinal contest.
- Central York will now face (Erie) McDowell at 1 p.m. Saturday at Altoona High in a state semifinal.
MILFORD — When Beau Pribula dreamed about how his first state playoff game would start, the nightmare of what actually happened on Saturday afternoon never crossed his mind.
The Central York High School junior quarterback threw an interception on his first pass of the game against Delaware Valley. He hadn't thrown the ball away in more than a month, and he needed a second to reset on the sideline after the play.
“It was a terrible decision on my part,” Pribula said. “Nobody was open; I should have thrown it away, but it was also difficult because I haven’t thrown an interception since Week 3. So, to start with that, it was definitely what we did not want, but I just had to flush it and bounce back, and we did.”
Bounce back is an understatement for what the Penn State football recruit did after the opening drive. Pribula tossed two first-half touchdown passes and added four rushing touchdowns after halftime to lead Central York (9-0) to a 49-27 victory against host Delaware Valley (6-2) in a PIAA Class 6-A quarterfinal.
It was Central's first-ever state quarterfinal game and first-ever state quarterfinal victory. The Panthers also became the first York County team to claim a state quarterfinal triumph.
“He takes it over when he needs to,” Central York coach Gerry Yonchiuk said of his star signal caller. “He’s really super focused, so if anything I try to get a feel for what he’s thinking and help guide him with what I’m thinking.”
Central rebounds from second-half deficit: Like they have the past two weeks, the Panthers scored a late first-half touchdown and then got the ball coming out of the locker room at halftime. Unlike any game this season though, Central York found itself tied at the break, 14-14.
Yonchiuk said he told the players it was their turn to start with the ball and score, and the Panthers responded. Pribula converted a fourth down with a pass to senior tight end Kyle Fontes and then scored a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak, but the extra point was blocked, giving Central a 20-14 edge.
The Warriors didn't just give up, however, and let the Panthers run away with the game. Delaware Valley forced senior running back Isaiah Sturgis to fumble and took the lead on the ensuing drive, 21-20.
That was the first time that had Central York trailed in the second half of a game all season after dominating its league opponents and starting strong in its District 3 playoff games, en route to comfortable wins.
Pribula said despite the large margins of victory in each game, the Panthers were actually tested this season and had faith they could get past any opponent.
“I thought the teams in our leagues really pushed us,” Pribula said. “They played us tough this year, but from the outside looking in, it probably looked like ‘oh yeah they’re playing no competition.’
"After that Central Dauphin game (in the district semifinals) when we put the beatdown on them, it was like, ‘OK, we have a lot of confidence now. We beat a solid opponent (that was ranked No. 2 in the state in 6-A at the time), and we feel as though we can beat anybody else, too.”
Tomb helps Central pull away: Against Delaware Valley, after falling behind by a point in the second half, Pribula and the Panthers did just that.
Central York senior wide receiver Judah Tomb ran a punt back for a touchdown, his third score of the day after he caught Pribula's two touchdowns before halftime. Tomb added another long punt return, an interception and recovered an onside kick later in the second half when Central took control.
Yonchiuk said of all the wide receivers he has ever coached, which includes several NCAA Division I players, Tomb is the best. Pribula also praised the wideout and showed his belief in him when, on fourth and 2, he called a go route for Tomb to score a 22-yard touchdown in the first half.
“I just called a fade. I was going to take a shot. If they were going to press, I was going to make them pay for it even though it was fourth down,” Pribula said. "The way we connected on that was huge … You gotta take chances like that. It’s the state playoffs. My guy was better than (their guy), so I’m going to trust him and his ability and my ability to make the play, and he did.”
The stats: Pribula finished with six total touchdowns and 236 total yards, including more than 120 yards rushing. Despite the fumble, Sturgis ran all over the Warriors' defense in the second half and racked up 99 yards on 15 carries. Tomb had three touchdowns and 107 total yards on offense.
Delaware Valley senior running backs Jason Henderson and Preston Machado had 100 and 107 rushing yards, respectively, and Henderson scored a pair of receiving touchdowns. Sophomore Paulie Weinrich scored the Warriors' two second-half touchdowns on the ground.
Looking for payback vs. McDowell: Central York advances to play (Erie) McDowell High School, which got credit for a state quarterfinal win after Pittsburgh Central Catholic was forced to forfeit because of COVID-19 cases. The game vs. McDowell is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Altoona High School's Mansion Park Stadium.
Central York will be closed next week because of positive COVID-19 cases, but the Panthers will continue to play because the football team has been taking virtual classes since the win over Central Dauphin, a decision Pribula said was made by the seniors on the team in order to best ensure the team's health.
Earlier this year, Pribula, Tomb and senior wide receivers Taylor Wright-Rawls and Kairyn Brown lost to McDowell in the state basketball playoffs. Nearly 250 days later, Pribula is eager to get his revenge on the Trojans in any sport he can.
“I want to get McDowell back. We lost to them in the state sweet 16 in basketball in March, so I still have that bitter taste in my mouth,” Pribula said. “We gotta beat them on the football field now.”
District 10 champion McDowell will enter at 6-0. In the latest Trib HSSN state 6-A rankings, Central York was No. 2, and McDowell was No. 5. With a victory Saturday, Central York will become the first York-Adams League team to advance to a state football title game.
— Reach Rob Rose at email@example.com.