The celebration, four years and a few black-and-blue quarters in the making, began in earnest with five minutes to play. Along the sideline, West York coach Ron Miller watched another wave of blue-clad Bulldogs players close in on Susquehanna Township quarterback Jordan Baskerville. It was fourth down, the Indians' last embers of hope all but snuffed out.
"It's over," Miller said. Baskerville disappeared under a trio of defenders.
The coach raised his arms and dashed up the sidelines. West York's players erupted, too, their 31-7 victory just about complete during Friday's District 3 Class AAA football semifinal.
It was a fitting finale, one more onslaught by a second-seeded West York team that was too overwhelming, too physically dominant for the visiting, third-seeded Indians.
It sealed what, by that point, had become clear: That the Bulldogs (13-0) are heading back to the district championship game at Hersheypark Stadium, their first such trip since 2008.
"I can't even describe it. I can't even talk, I'm so excited," said West York center Brody Kern, one of the team's 24 seniors. "I'm probably slurring my words."
Kern, a four-year starter, understood the significance. Twice, he saw his Bulldogs come within one game of a trip to Hershey, only to fall short. In 2009, they lost to this same Susquehanna Township program by one point.
This time? The Bulldogs left no doubt.
Their reward is a date with top-seeded Bishop McDevitt (13-0), the two-time defending district champion, next Friday at 7 p.m. The Crusaders dispatched Lancaster Catholic, 27-7, in their semifinal.
"We're going to work as hard as we ever worked," Miller said. "Try to give ourselves an opportunity at the end of the
Miller's Bulldogs laid out a good blueprint for themselves Friday. They blunted the Indians' speed-infused lineup -- headlined by jet-quick tailback Colby Grant -- with a blend of disciplined defense and between-the-tackles running.
Nowhere was the advantage more clear than along the offensive line, where West York's senior-led group bludgeoned Township (10-3) one play after another. Of West York's 402 total yards, 353 came on the ground. Brock Snellbaker contributed a team-best 122 yards on 21 carries. James Johnson and Steven Wilson pitched in 89 and 85 yards, respectively.
Wilson's 19-yard touchdown scamper gave the Bulldogs a 24-7 lead 49 seconds before halftime.
"I talked to the backs and said, 'Boys, we got to pound the ball,'" Snellbaker said.
"If your guys up front are moving the defensive lineman back five, 10 yards," Kern said, "anybody can run back there."
Meanwhile, West York's defense provided the initial spark in the first quarter. That's when senior linebacker Nick Duncker stepped in front of a pass along the Township sideline and ran it back 48 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Bulldogs a 10-0 edge.
"He threw it, and it kinda just hit me," Duncker said. "It was unreal. I didn't really know what to do with it, so I just started running."
The Bulldogs defense also conjured a pair of goal-line stands. The first came after Township decided to go for a touchdown on the final play of the first half from the West York 4-yard line, rather than kick a field goal. A pass to Grant was stopped short.
In the third quarter, West York denied a fourth-and-goal after a Grant punt return set the Indians up at the Bulldogs 8-yard line.
Grant accounted for 139 of Township's 205 yards, including a highlight-reel, 38-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
In the fourth quarter, a 97-yard touchdown drive -- capped by Johnson's 22-yard scamper -- pushed the Bulldogs' lead to 31-7.
Then, after Baskerville was engulfed one more time, the reality of a return to the district final began to set in.
After the final seconds had ticked away, Miller unveiled a brown, "Hershey" T-shirt -- the same one he had worn underneath his jacket during two previous district semifinals. Both those times, he'd had to keep his jacket on.
"This was their last game at West York," Miller said of his seniors. "They were going to fight for every inch. And they did."
Susquehanna Twp. 0 7 0 0 -- 7
West York 10 14 0 7 -- 31
WY -- Chris Markel 21 field goal, 4:51.
WY -- Nick Duncker 48 interception return (Markel kick), 4:38.
WY -- Brandon Kinneman 1 run (Markel kick), 8:14.
ST -- Colby Grant 38 run (Nick Trovalli kick), 4:17.
WY -- Steven Wilson 19 run (Markel kick), 0:49.
WY -- James Johnson 22 run (Markel kick), 5:50.
-- ST -- WY
First downs -- 9 -- 21
Rushes-yards -- 20-119 -- 63-353
Passing -- 8-24-2 -- 3-9-0
Passing yards -- 86 -- 49
Total yards -- 205 -- 402
Punts -- 5-36.4 -- 4-32.5
Fumbles-lost -- 1-0 -- 1-1
Penalties-yards -- 11-97 -- 10-74
Rushing -- Susquehanna Township, Colby Grant 15-133, Takhi Turner 1-2, Jordan Baskerville 4-(-16); West York, Brock Snellbaker 21-122, James Johnson 16-89, Steven Wilson 11-85, Brandon Kinneman 12-38, Zack Smith 3-19.
Passing -- Susquehanna Township, Baskerville 8-24-2-86; West York, Kinneman 3-9-0-49.
Receiving -- Susquehanna Township, Jordan Banks 3-48, Grant 2-6, Lawerence Holley 1-22, Mike Jones 1-6, Ty Gordon 1-4. ; West York, Kingley Chikezie 1-23, Anthony Trone 1-17, Austin Bowser 1-9.