FOOTBALL

York-Adams League football playoff preview: Capsules for district quarterfinal games

Five local teams are in action across four games, including a rivalry rematch.

Thomas Kendziora
York Dispatch

Five York-Adams League football teams have made it to the second weekend of November, where the PIAA District 3 quarterfinals await on what’s expected to be a rainy Friday night.

After nine local teams advanced to the playoffs, the six squads in action went 2-4 last weekend. York Suburban raced past Donegal for a 41-6 win, its first district victory in 36 years, and Dover stamped its playoff return with a 40-21 triumph against Garden Spot. South Western was oh-so-close to moving on as well, but fell 21-20 at home against Northern York. Kennard-Dale lost 43-0 at East Pennsboro in the Class 4A first round, Delone Catholic lost 56-17 to Trinity in the 2A semifinals and Fairfield lost 62-6 at Steel-High in the 1A district title game.

Central York, York High and New Oxford all join the party this week. The Panthers and Bearcats will open the Class 6A postseason against each other, just two weeks after playing in the regular season. The Colonials, meanwhile, earned a bye in the 5A bracket and will host Northern York with a semifinal spot up for grabs. Dover and York Suburban will be in action on the road against powerhouse programs.

Central York against Red Lion during their homecoming football game in Springettsbury on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022.

All four games were initially scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. Friday, but Dover's road tilt against Exeter Township has been moved back to 7 p.m. Saturday, when better weather is expected. Here’s the rundown.

CLASS 6A QUARTERFINALS

No. 7 York High (6-3) at No. 2 Central York (9-1): The Panthers’ run of four consecutive unbeaten seasons in York-Adams Division I culminated with a road win Oct. 28 against the rival Bearcats, who also entered that matchup perfect in division play this fall. Even with quarterback Nasir Still unavailable, Central York jumped out to a 36-16 halftime lead thanks to a ground attack led by junior Juelz Goff. York High battled back to within one score in the second half, but Goff — who had 225 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries as a Wildcat QB — added an insurance score late in the fourth.

Despite having the best record among District 3 Class 6A teams, Central York narrowly slipped to No. 2 in the final PIAA power rankings, setting up a rematch five miles north. Even with rain in the forecast, expect another night of offensive fireworks. The Bearcats still have Division I Offensive Player of the Year Jahiem White and first-team QB Sam Stoner, among other weapons. The Panthers expect to have Still available, which would add a multidimensional playmaker to a group already filled with all-county talent.

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Central York won its first District 3 title in 2020 and was the top seed last year but fell to Wilson in the semifinals. For York High, a first playoff win since 2018 would be the exclamation point on the careers of White, Stoner and the other seniors. No. 3-seed Harrisburg or No. 6-seed Wilson will await this matchup’s winner next weekend.

Eastern York against New Oxford during their homecoming football game in Wrightsville on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.

CLASS 5A QUARTERFINALS

No. 11 Northern York (7-4) at No. 3 New Oxford (8-2): The bracket shaped up for a potential rematch between the Colonials and South Western, which won a Week 3 meeting between the teams. Instead, it’s the Polar Bears making a long trip south for the second consecutive Friday. Quarterback Timothy Bonin threw two touchdown passes, Magarrin Macke had a pick-six and Spencer Siegel blocked an extra point with 2:36 left to send Northern into the top eight.

New Oxford steamrolled its way to a 6-0 record in York-Adams Division II, and the Colonials picked up a slew of all-star nods this week. Defensive end Brittyn Eakins earned Defensive Player of the Year in the division and was also a second-team running back. Wide receivers Brennan Holmes and Evan Schriver, center Connor Main, linebacker Trevor Yerka and cornerback/kicker Idriz Ahmetovic also made the division’s first team, while quarterback Jett Moore led a group of seven second-teamers.

Seemingly every Polar Bears game this season has been close — eight of 11 have been decided by one score, including five one-point margins — while New Oxford has only had one final gap of less than 14 points. So a dramatic affair Friday might push the Colonials out of their comfort zone, but they certainly have the talent to get the job done.

No. 7 Dover (9-2) at No. 2 Exeter Township (10-0): The Eagles are much more than a heartwarming story, and they proved it last Friday. After improving their regular-season record from 1-9 to 8-2, Dover pulled away for a 40-21 win over Garden Spot last week. The playmaking trio of quarterback Aric Campbell, running back Gavin Mullins and wideout Thomas Smyser — all first-team all-county selections — did its thing, and the defense shut out the Spartans in the second half after a wild first two quarters.

More:Dover pulls away from Garden Spot for 2nd playoff win in school history

The reward, if you want to call it that, is a Saturday night trip to Exeter Township, where the defending District 3 champion Eagles haven’t lost all season and have outscored opponents 404-113. They beat Hempfield, the top seed in 6A, in a 44-22 rout last month. Exeter Township’s versatile attack is headlined by dual-threat quarterback Mason Rotelli (1,256 passing yards, 404 rushing yards); powerful running back Richie Karstien (1,153 yards, 17 touchdowns); and 6-foot-6 Penn State tight end commit Joey Schlaffer (695 receiving yards, 246 rushing yards, 12 total scores). The defense has 26 sacks and 80 tackles for loss.

New Oxford and Northern York are on the same side of the bracket, so the winners of these two quarterfinals will square off next weekend.

York Suburban against York Catholic during their football game in Spring Garden on Friday, Sept.9, 2022.

CLASS 4A QUARTERFINALS

No. 7 York Suburban (7-2) at No. 2 Manheim Central (9-1): What can Mikey Bentivegna do for an encore? The Trojan senior running back and York-Adams D-II Offensive Player of the Year had a night for the ages against Donegal, breaking loose for touchdowns of 78, 80, 51, 11, 61 and 63 yards — all in the first 25 minutes of game time — and finishing with a school-record 382 yards on 13 carries. Suburban won its first playoff game since it captured a surprise district title in 1986.

More:York Suburban football assistant part of history again, 36 years later

Manheim Central awaits, and the 18-time District 3 champions have been dominant all season. The Barons started the year 9-0 before a 21-17 loss to Exeter Township on Oct. 28, which they’ve now had two weeks to think about. Running back Brycen Arnold has amassed 1,723 yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground, while quarterback Zac Hahn has thrown 25 TD passes and only four interceptions.

The Trojans will need another star turn from Bentivegna — who now boasts 2,255 yards and 37 total touchdowns this year — and a crisp performance from the entire roster if they are to pull off the upset. The winner will face either No. 3-seed Lampeter-Strasburg or No. 6-seed Susquehanna Township in the semifinals.