Central York Continues Scintillating Start With Dramatic Comeback Win Over Hempfield
When a crisp autumn breeze returns to the air and the leaves begin to crunch underneath your feet, that can mean only one thing to high school football fans around the commonwealth ofPennsylvania—Playoff football is right around the corner. Sure,it may seem sacrilegious to even fathom the idea of playoffs considering the 2018 season began just three short weeks ago, but the fact of the matter is that it’s really never too early to startlooking forward and thinking about the postseason.
As it relates to more specifically to the District 3 landscapewithin the broad scope of the state, there always seems to be one rhetorical question that consistently bubbles to the surface at the outset of Week 11 each and every season that is either fair or foul depending on which side of the fence you find yourself on. “Is this the year that someone from the YAIAA rises up and challenges for a District 3 title, most specifically in the ‘big school’ classifications?” And while we will have to ultimately wait for a few more months to see if that tiring question can finally be put to bed once and for all, it certainly appears that there is one squad from York County that is eager and ready for the opportunity to squash that popular District-wide beef once and for all as it relates to the 6A field—Say hello to the Central York Panthers.
Look around thus far in the young season and it’s hard to find a group playing much better ball than the Orange and White. Bolstered by a 2-0 record, including a titanic-sized victory over the bluest of bluebloods last week in Cumberland Valley, Central York had certainly caught the attention of everyone in South Central Pennsylvania heading into Labor Day Weekend. And while some may have thought that the Panthers would have spent the past week basking in glory and reading their press clippings after defeating the 21-time District 3 finalists for the first time in school history, a win over his alma mater no less, it was evident that Central York head Josh Oswalt and his Panther squad was just as eager to press on and continue with a business-like approach when preparing for Hempfield.
“We loved it up and we celebrated it Friday night but when we came back on Saturday it was all Hempfield,” Oswalt said describing that week that was. “We knew Hempfield was no slouch. They’ve played some football here early on. They played Manheim Central tough last week and of course they took it to Dallastown which is a tough York-Adams opponent,” the head man laying out the scouting report on the opposition.
Awaiting them on the other side of the field on Friday night stood a team that was just as eager to get back out on the field after their last performance, albeit for very different reasons as mentioned by Coach Oswalt.
Last week against the juggernaut known as Manheim Central, the Barons put their foot to floorboard early last Saturday morning and did not let up until the final gun as the Barons made the quick fifteen-minute drive home with a 28-7 victory over the neighboring Black Knights in their back pocket. And while Saturday’s performance understandably put a damper on Hempfield’s somewhat surprising victory over Dallastown the previous week, the Black Knights knew full-well that a takedown over the high-flying Panthers would give them a strong dose of extra juice heading Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 1 play next week.
When playing the role of a decided underdog, getting off to a fast start is usually what is prescribed for springing an upset. Well, check and mate for Hempfield on Friday night.
The Black Knights started off fast playing with a clear “mean streak” in them as the hometown squad began to pound the rock at will early and often against the Central York defense. Aided by big runs within the drive by junior quarterback Colin Peters and crucial 4th & 1 conversion picked up by senior running back Matt Heuston, Hempfield set sail on their first drive of the ballgame and did not stop until they crossed the goal line courtesy of a 1-yard quarterback keeper as the Peters’ touchdown capped off a dramatic opening statement as the home-standing Black Knights jumped out to a 7-0 lead on their guests with 7:15 to play in the opening quarter.
For as impressive as their offense was on their opening series, the Hempfield defense started the game off just as, if not even stronger than their offensive mates. Keeping a lid on the dangerous Central York offense directed by University of Delaware commit Cade Pribula, the Black Knight D was seen swarming to the football their first few trips out on the turf as the first quarter eventually expired with Hempfield in possession of the 7-0 advantage, despite the Black Knights on the march yet again.
And while it may have originally seemed as though Hempfield finding the endzone was already a foregone conclusion, Central York defensive back Mason Myers had other ideas as the Panthers’ junior DB made the first of his three game-savingplays on Friday night by snaring an interception off a deflection in the endzone and promptly racing out 15 yards to set the CY offense up at their own 13 yard line, saving the day and moment for the visitors from the White Rose city.
But once again however, the Hempfield defense would refuse to yield an inch, much less a yard, as Central York was forced to punt the ball back to their hosts, stymied once again by the Black Knights’ defensive energy and attention to detail after a three & out.
Once Hempfield did regain possession following the CY punt, the Black Knights took over at their own 36 yard line with 9:06 left to play in the half and began to dink and dunk their way down the field while not forgetting that tried and true formula of pounding the ball at the opposition. Needless to say, it would turn out to be a good decision as the dam ultimately burst on this defensive series for the Panthers as Hempfield senior battering-ram running back Matt Heuston rumbled his way 25 yards to paydirt to give the Black Knights the emphatic two touchdown advantage at 14-0 with 7:44 to play in the half.
Needing a spark, any kind of spark, the Central York offense needed to get in gear if the Panthers had any aspirations of stealing just a morsel of momentum back from Hempfield heading into the half. Well luckily for them, those aspirations would quickly become reality as Cade Pribula proceeded to fire a dart into the night sky that landed with the delicacy of the feather into the waiting hands of Central York’s Taylor Wright-Rawls as the sophomore wideout strolled 56 yards to the house with his newfound prize as the Panthers were able to collect the late-half score that they desperately needed in order to make it a 14-7 ballgame in favor of Hempfield which is where the score would reside for the remaining 3:01 that would eventually tick off the first half clock following the Wright-Rawls touchdown.
Coming out of the halftime dressing room, it appeared initially that the second half would be a mirror-image of what took place during the game’s first 24 minutes.
Despite the fact that Central York clearly seemed to be renewed and energized coming out of the halftime intermission as evidenced by a nice second half kickoff return by CY’s Mason Myers, which was sprung by devastating block courtesy of Saahir Cornelius, the Panthers’ offense would strike out on their first drive of the second half and was forced to punt the ball back to Hempfield with the Black Knights setting up shop at their own 37 with just over two minutes having elapsed off the third quarter clock.
That would be all the further they would need to get in order to offer an early second half statement as Colin Peters flicked a pass out to Darien Ressler waiting along the Hempfield sideline with Ressler proceeding to slip out of a would-be tackle and storm past the oncoming Central York defensive troops as the senior wideout raced 63 yards to the house on the Black Knights’ first play from scrimmage to put Hempfield back up by two scores at 21-7 with 9:56 to play in the third.
That’s when things started to get crazy.
Speaking of the second half taking on an identical form as towhat went down on in the first half of action, Central York would have been more than happy to see a Cade Pribula to Taylor Wright-Rawls connection help turn the tide in their favor while staring at a two touchdown deficit just as it had earlier in the contest. Luckily for the visitors from York, that would be exactly what the doctor ordered at the right time as Pribula went up top and was able to find his rangy and explosive sophomore pass-catcher as a 66-yard spark between the two on the Panthers’ first play of the ensuing drive got Central York all the way down to the Hempfield 2 yard line with a horsecollar penalty tacked on at the end of the run just for good measure. From there, Pribula was able to call his own number and sneak across the chalk line for the 1-yard touchdown as Central York was able to trim the Hempfield lead down to a manageable 21-14 within the blink of an eye with 8:24 left to go in the third quarter of play.
Remember that name Mason Myers who was able to come with a big play earlier in the game while patrolling the defensive backfield for Central York? Well, let’s just say he would continue to be thorn in Hempfield’s offensive plans over the next two series.
Aided by a nice return out near the midfield stripe by way of Darien Ressler following the Pribula touchdown run, the Black Knights would proceed to start off on a nice drive that would eventually make it’s way all the way down to the Central York 23 yard line before stalling out on a 3rd & 6 attempt. And with the ball resting in that dangerous spot on the field that creates for a coin flip decision when determining whether to kick a field goal or attempt at moving the sticks by way of a fourth down conversion, Hempfield would decide on the latter only to bear witness to Mason Myers laying out beautifully to knock the ball away, creating a turnover on downs and giving the ball back to the Central York offense 77 yards away from the endzone.
For as much as the Central York offense seemed to sputter with fits and starts to begin the contest, the Panthers were certainly able to find another gear come the third quarter. And right on cue, another Pribula dart, this one to fellow senior Saahir Cornelius, who would break the ankles of opposing Black Knight defenders after securing the reception, suddenly accounted for a 56-yard pickup with the CY offense clearly humming along with the ball now resting at the Black Knights’17-yard line. From there, Pribula was able to get the clubhouse bounce with the loose pigskin bounding back up into his lap after an initial bobble and fumble as the future Delaware Blue Hen trotted 7 yards to the house as a brand new ballgame was afoot with things all square between the Panthers and Black Knights at 21-21 with 3:26 to go in an already tremendous third quarter of action.
With momentum now clearly standing on the Central York sideline, the Hempfield offensive unit needed to stem the tide. Fast. Unfortunately for them however, this drive too would end in the hands of Mason Myers both literally and figuratively as the junior was able to continue his sensational evening by snaring his second interception of the contest, returning this one out to the Hempfield 35 yard line setting up the Central York offense in fantastic shape.
The brothers Pribula would be able to handle the rest from there as senior QB Cade lofted a pass high into the corner of the endzone for freshman brother Beau who was able to sky and come down with the reception on the first play following the Myers’ pick as Central York was able to claim their first lead of the night at 28-21 following the Pribula to Pribula 35-yard TD with 2:18 showing on the third quarter clock and the Central York faithful going bonkers in the grandstands.
Once again, the Hempfield offense found themselves in familiar territory of having to steal momentum back from a Central York defense that was smelling blood in the water, eager to hand the ball back to their offense who was quickly looking like they could not be stopped in any way shape or form.
Fortunately this time for Hempfield however, the Black Knights would be able to keep the circling sharks at bay, at least for the time being, as Hempfield junior wide receiver Sam Hess fearlessly went across the middle on 3rd & 12 and was able to come down with a gigantic reception given the circumstances in traffic, extending the drive for the hometown Black Knights as the pinball-like third quarter finally came to a close with Central York holding serve with the 28-21 advantage.
Once the game returned to action following the brief respite in between quarters, Hempfield quickly found themselves facing yet another third down tester. And unlike the one previous which ended with a Sam Hess reception to move the sticks, this attempt would quickly be put to a stop by way of Central York’s Luke Hinderer as the Panthers’ big defensive tackle was able to maul his way through the Hempfield O-line and collect a tackle for loss. However following the Hinderer stop, the Black Knights once again found themselves with a decision to make. Kick the field goal or go for it? And once again, the Hempfield offensive remained on the field as a timely Colin Peters to Jackson Shand connection gave the hosts a fresh set of downs now inside the Central York redzone at the 16 yard line. In order to truly reap the benefits of his gutsy reception on 4th down, it seemed only fitting that Shand would have his name called on a touchdown reception to cap the drive which is precisely what took place shortly thereafter as the 12-yard Peters to Shand pitch and catch knotted things up at 28-28 with 7:42 to play.
Now ironically, the shoe was on the other foot. This time the Central York offense would have to answer the dinner bell with Hempfield stealing some of their precious mojo following the Shand TD grab. The good news was that it didn’t appear that the Panthers’ offense could be stopped. The bad news was that the last handful of drives really weren’t a true predictor of how things would eventually end up. Case in point, a sensational diving interception on CY’s next offensive series thanks to Hempfield’s Matt Heuston jumping a route perfectly and coming away with a gigantic interception, giving the ball back to Hempfield just a tick past the midfield stripe with the chance to salt the clock away and possibly come away with a walk-off win.
After being able to successfully navigate past a 3rd & 2 conversion by way of a 9-yard jaunt by Matt Heuston on the ensuing offensive series, Hempfield once again found themselves tasked with having to answer big play—A 4th & 4 attempt at the Central York 27 yard line. It wouldn’t turn out to look like a masterpiece, but the finer details did not matter. All that mattered was that Hempfield was able to keep the drive alive thanks to Darien Ressler going low to scoop the ball off the Georgelis Law Firm Stadium turf for the 9-yard picking giving the Black Knights new life all while knocking on the door.
Shortly thereafter, Hempfield was faced with yet another third down do or die scenario. And while it appeared initially that Matt Heuston was able to maul and mash his way through the line en route to a first down, he was short. Agonizingly short as a matter of fact. So short that the lead official proceeded to get down on both knees in order to assess the distance before ultimately determining that Heuston and the Black Knights were short by a fingernail. Ironically, unlike the last few times they had found themselves in a situation similar to this, Hempfield opted to try for the field goal for the first time all night by sending out senior kicker Curtis Johnson who had been automatic to that point all evening with his PATs. And with ice water running through his veins, Johnson was able to boot the 25-yard field goal right between the bright yellow pipes, giving Hempfield the 31-28 lead with just 1:36 to play in regulation.
The thing is however, whenever you have a tough-as-nails senior quarterback like Cade Pribula standing on the other sideline, regulation isn’t even in question.
Starting off at their own 28-yard line with 1:26 to play might not have seemed like the most glorious task set in front of them, but nonetheless the Central York offense returned to the field with one goal in mind—Score 6.
After a series of Pribula incisions into the Hempfield defense with strikes to Reid Hershner, Saahir Cornelius, Taylor Wright-Rawls, and Beau Pribula respectively, Central York suddenly found themselves knocking on the door at the Hempfield 21-yard line with just 14 seconds left to go. And with a wave of momentum clearly riding behind them, the Panthers’ offense continued to press on and not worry about settling for a field goal and a shot at overtime. Instead, Cade Pribula dropped back to pass and was able to stand in the pocket and deliver a fearless shot to Taylor Wright-Rawls standing near the goal line with Wright-Rawls being able to do the rest as the 21-yard score, Pribula’s 5th of the night, gave Central York the 35-31 lead with just 5 seconds left to play with a roar from the Central York fans that could have likely been heard all the way on the other side of the Susquehanna River.
Ironically enough for a game which was littered with a flair for the dramatics, there would be no more added fireworks on this night. Instead, the game would end with a Reid Hershner sack before a last-ditch Hempfield Hail Mary or lateral-fest could even get started as the Central York Panthers had come on the road to claim a gutty, emotional, and hard-fought triumph on the road at Hempfield 35-31 to improve to 3-0 on the young season.
“I think this will be an easy conversation with the boys,” an excited Central York head coach Josh Oswalt said trotting off the field on Friday night eager to address his victorious troops in the locker room. “This is why we work all summer. This was a 48 minute battle against a very good Hempfield team that wanted it bad….You give us the ball with that much time left at the end of the game down 3, we work this stuff all summer. This is why we put them in high pressure situations and make them uncomfortable. That’s why we do it.”
And how about that quarterback who displayed incredible moxie and leadership with the game on the line in a do or die scenario? “He runs our system the best I’ve ever seen,” Oswalt said simply of his senior signal-caller in Cade Pribula. “He was as cool as a cucumber on the sideline down 14. Right away I said ‘This is what’s going to work, we’re going to hit it.’ He said ‘Cool we’ll go run it’ and we then score to be down 7. This is his third year with me and he’s comfortable with it,” Oswalt continued on describing Pribula’s proficiency with the offensive system. “He knows what’s going to work.”
“Our guys just continue to fight,” Oswalt said proudly after the completion of his team’s remarkable comeback victory Friday night in Landisville. “The youth we have on this field….It’s incredible what we’re doing with it. We just have to continue coaching out of our minds and continue to grow up with these guys, but they just continue to show up and do what we ask of them. There’s no better feeling in the world.”
NEXT UP: Central York will look to continue their white-hot start to 2018 by jumping head-first into the YAIAA slate with a tasty York County brawl at home with Red Lion next week against a Lions squad likely chomping at the bit to make amends for Friday night’s loss on the road at Chambersburg with the prospect of knocking off an undefeated Central squad soundingeven more tantalizing.
Just like their opposition this past Friday night, Hempfield will also now set sail for the divisional portion of their schedule with the Black Knights traveling to Warwick to kick off Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 1 play in a game between two teams both needing a pick-me-up after bitter Friday night defeats as the Warriors too found themselves on the short end of the stick after dropping a tough one on the road at Manheim Central.
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