Anthony Franklin's road to this point had been an imperfect one -- much like the West York victory in which he played a central role Friday night.
As a sophomore two years ago, the linebacker was removed from the team by the Bulldogs coaching staff. The Friday night thrills, the victories, the division titles ... it all could have vanished.
Instead, Franklin spent the latter part of Friday night with his teammates, celebrating a 35-14 win at Northeastern that guaranteed West York at least a share of its sixth straight YAIAA Division II title.After that sophomore season, Franklin vowed to change course. He earned his way back onto the field and into his coaches' favor.
The Bulldogs are thankful he did.
On a night when little came easy for West York, Franklin made two game-changing plays in the third quarter. He forced a fumble to halt the Bobcats' potential go-ahead drive, then recovered another fumble minutes later to set up the Bulldogs' game-winning score.
"I came a long way," Franklin said. "I sat down and I told myself 'Who do I want to be when I'm a senior? Who do I want to be remembered as?' "
Franklin's efforts were symbolic of an opportunistic Bulldogs' performance. Northeastern moved the ball at will early but sabotaged itself with four turnovers -- two inside West York's red zone. Those miscues enabled West York to pull away with 21 unanswered points after halftime.
The Bulldogs (9-0, 4-0 Div. II) can lock up the outright title next week at home against New Oxford.
"It took everything we had," West York coach Ron Miller said. "I don't know why, but for some reason we just seemed a little bit rattled early on."
Certainly, the numbers reflected a contest that was much closer than the final score. The Bobcats outgained West York (322-272). They tied the game at 14 with 22 seconds before halftime, when quarterback Alec Miller found Nick Yinger for a 5-yard score.
Before Friday, West York's first-team defense had not allowed a touchdown since Week 3.
Northeastern (6-3, 3-1) had a chance to go ahead on their first possession of the second half. An 86-yard run by Daniel Adams set up the Bobcats with a first-and-goal on the 3-yard line.
That's where Franklin made his mark. On a second-and-goal, he exploded through the line as the ball was snapped and threw down Miller for 4-yard loss.
Franklin did the same thing on the next play, this time knocking the ball loose from Miller before the quarterback could hand it off. West York's Devon Fissel jumped on the fumble.
"I would listen (to the snap count) during the first half. I'd pick it up, pick it up," Franklin said. "Then I finally had it for the two plays that basically changed the game."
"We score and go up 21-14, the game's completely different," Northeastern coach Brendan Brown added.
Minutes later, Franklin's fumble recovery at the Bobcats' 3-yard line set up Anthony Trone's go-ahead touchdown run. Franklin also chipped in a sack and three tackles for loss.
"That's a young man that has come a long, long way," Miller said. "Now he's not only a leader of the football team, but a leader in school and in the community. I love him. He's a great young man and a special kid."
The back-breaker for Northeastern came later in the third quarter. West York used a pair of fake punts to keep alive an eventual 11-play, 62-yard scoring drive. On the second of those fakes, receiver/punter Zack Smith hit Brock Snellbaker for a 40-yard pass down to the 5-yard line on fourth-and-18.
Snellbaker added a 50-yard interception return touchdown in the closing minutes to seal the win -- and another division title.
"This is special ... 9-0," Franklin said. "We have a chance to do something that's historic. We have 24 seniors. There's so much leadership, so much passion."
West York 7 7 14 7 -- 35
Northeastern 0 14 0 0 -- 14
WY -- Brandon Kinneman 4 run (Chris Markel kick), 1:49
Ne -- Daniel Adams 1 run (Ethan Qualters kick), 7:50
WY -- Kinneman 12 run (Markel kick), 4:41
Ne -- Nick Yinger 5 pass from Alec Miller (Qualters kick), :22
WY -- Anthony Trone 4 run (Markel kick), 5:48
WY -- James Johnson 3 run (Markel kick), :10
WY -- Brock Snellbaker 50 interception return (Markel kick), 1:44
-- WY -- Ne
First downs -- 14 -- 14
Rushes-yards -- 40-155 -- 43-194
Passing -- 5-13-1 -- 10-19-2
Passing yards -- 117 -- 128
Total yards -- 272 -- 322
Punts -- 2-39 -- 3-37
Fumbles-lost -- 1-1 -- 2-2
Penalties-yards -- 4-50 -- 7-60
Rushing -- West York, Steven Wilson 5-51, James Johnson 8-39, Brock Snellbaker 14-35, Zack Smith 1-12, Anthony Trone 3-10, Brandon Kinneman 9-8; Northeastern, Daniel Adams 18-130, Jordan Kearse 10-59, Nick Yinger 3-11, Alec Miller 10-(-4), Joe Beckhardt 2-(-2).
Passing -- West York, Brandon Kinneman 4-12-1-77, Zack Smith 1-1-0-40; Northeastern, Alec Miller 10-19-2-128.
Receiving -- West York, Zack Smith 3-33, Wilson 1-44, Snellbaker 1-40; Northeastern, Braheem Riley 3-25, Zach Moyer 2-36, Nick Yinger 2-31, Chris Curry 1-30, Joe Beckhardt 1-7, Daniel Adams 1-(-1).