Central York loses PIAA 6-A title game to juggernaut squad from St. Joseph's Prep, 62-13

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
  • Central York fell to St. Joseph's Prep in the PIAA 6-A state football final, 62-13.
  • Central York ends its season at 10-1. St. Joseph's Prep finished at 6-0.
  • St. Joseph's Prep came into the game ranked No. 3 in the nation among high school football programs.

Gerry Yonchiuk knew going into Saturday night's game that his team needed a nearly perfect performance to pull off the upset victory.

His Central York team had made history just by being part of the PIAA Class 6-A title game, but the team on the other side of the field has basically rewritten the state high school football record books in the past few seasons. St. Joseph's Prep came into the game with more than a dozen NCAA Division I players and the experience of playing in the past four PIAA 6-A championship contests.

Central York's Isaiah Sturgis runs the ball while St. Joseph's Prep defends during PIAA Class 6-A Football Championship action at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. St. Joseph's Prep would win the title game 62-13. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The Hawks also came in ranked No. 3 in the nation, but Saturday night they looked like the top team in the country. The Prep cruised to its third straight state title with a 62-13 victory. It came on a night when the Panthers were unable to replicate the magic from a postseason run that saw them reach this special game.

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“I think we have a great football team. I think they’re at a different level,” Yonchiuk said. “That’s a different brand of football and I can’t complain, it is what it is. They can recruit and they got kids from three states, that is what it is. I thought we had a realistic shot at them and it just wasn’t our night and they really, really played well.”

Decent start: For a few moments early on, it looked the Panthers were going to test the Hawks. Central York held The Prep to just 10 points after one quarter, but couldn't get its offense going to take advantage of a strong start by the defense.

The Panthers punted on their first three drives and saw the Hawks quickly extend their lead from 10 points to 24-0 after Ohio State recruit seniors, quarterback Kyle McCord and wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. connected for a pair of touchdowns. Yonchiuk believed his team could cut into the Hawks' early lead, but it never happened.

“I thought right there it was still a game that we could really have a shot at winning,” Yonchiuk said. “I thought that’s what we would do.”

Pribula injury: Part of why the Panthers failed to get any offense going was because of an injury to their star player. Junior quarterback Beau Pribula hurt his foot playing defense in the first quarter and Yonchiuk said he couldn't run well or push off his foot to throw.

Central York Beau Pribula carries the ball while St. Joseph's Prep defends during PIAA Class 6-A Football Championship action at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. St. Joseph's Prep would win the title game 62-13. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The Penn State recruit was held to 11 rushing yards on eight carries and completed 19 of 38 passes for 163 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Despite the difficult start, the Panthers still had an opening to try and claw their way back into the game before the break.

Pribula hit senior Jahmar Simpson for a 10-yard touchdown with 2:13 left until halftime to cut the lead to 24-7. Central York was set to receive the ball to start the second half.

A defensive stop would allow Central York to at least open the second half with the ball and possibly cut the lead to 10, potentially forcing The Prep into a real game for the first time in a long time.

Central York Head Coach Gerry Yonchiuk with Jahmar Simpson during PIAA Class 6-A Football Championship action against St. Joseph's Prep at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. St. Joseph's Prep would win the title game 62-13. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Prep scores two daggers: Instead, the Hawks (6-0) put another 14 points on the board in less than two minutes after McCord hit senior wide receiver Malik Cooper for a 78-yard score and then Cooper launched a pass to senior receiver Sahmir Hagans for a 55-yard strike to crush the Panthers' hopes of another comeback win, opening up a 38-7 halftime edge.

“As soon as he tossed it, I said, ‘Oh here it comes,’” Yonchiuk said of the. trick-play toss by Cooper. “I knew it was coming, but you can’t get (the words) out because you didn’t expect it ahead of time. We were saying we can’t get beat over the top, but it happened to us.”

McCord finished the game 21 of 28 with 337 passing yards and four touchdowns, while all three of his NCAA D-I-bound wide receivers found the end zone.

Still a memorable season: Although the Panthers' dream season ended in disappointing fashion, Yonchiuk wanted his players to make sure the loss didn't define their season. The team they lost to was better than them, and better than any other team in the state, and maybe even the nation.

Central York vs St. Joseph's Prep during PIAA Class 6-A Football Championship action at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. St. Joseph's Prep would win the title game 62-13. Dawn J. Sagert photo

That doesn't take away from how memorable this season was for the coaches, players and fans that got to be a part of it. No team from York County has gotten as far as the Panthers did, and while it might take a few days until the sting from this loss wears off, Yonchiuk wanted his team to know they have nothing to be ashamed of after a 10-1 campaign.

“It was a special run,” Yonchiuk said. “One bad night or getting beat by a superior opponent certainly cannot be the measuring stick for your season. You went 10-0 and did tremendous things and just ran into a juggernaut tonight.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.

Central York vs St. Joseph's Prep during PIAA Class 6-A Football Championship action at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. St. Joseph's Prep would win the title game 62-13. Dawn J. Sagert photo