YORK - Despite suffering yet another heartbreaking loss in the opening round of the District 3 Class AAAA football playoffs, there were some bright spots for the Chambersburg Trojans.

In a 33-28 loss to the Central York Panthers, perhaps the biggest standout was senior running back Tay Charles. Because the Trojans were working without leading rusher Jamal Pickett, who suffered from a sprained ankle in Week 10, they desperately needed someone to step up. And Charles was that man.

"We missed Jamal up there some with his having the inside-run ability he brings us," Chambersburg coach Mark Saunders said. "We missed that, but Tay did a good job. He did exactly what I expected him to do. We needed him in this situation, and he performed. That says a lot about him and his character and determination."

Charles was the Trojans' leading rusher with 60 yards on eight carries. He had one touchdown for 38 yards, which was the second longest play of the game for Chambersburg. He also stood out defensively, according to Saunders.

"I thought he was going to be a force tonight, which he definitely was," Saunders said. "He did a great job on offense, defense and special teams. He's a good player, and unfortunately, I just wish he wasn't a senior."

SLOPPY PLAY: Both coaches entered Friday night's game knowing they'd need to play nearly perfect games for the victory. They both mentioned turnovers and discipline when discussing the keys to the game.

Well, neither team lived up to those expectations.

Chambersburg struggled with turnovers, committing one fumble and two interceptions - all of which came in the second half. The Trojans looked as if they would win the turnover battle. Chambersburg's Hunter Russell recovered a fumble with 2:41 left in the half. Nine plays and 63 yards later, the Trojans had taken a 21-14 lead into halftime.

But then Chambersburg had two turnovers in the third quarter, and Central York was able to capitalize on one.

"That's huge when you have two teams that are pretty evenly-matched like this," Saunders said. "It's back and forth, back and forth, then that one turnover can change the whole complexion of the game, which it did."

The biggest issue for Central York was discipline. The Panthers racked up 14 penalties totaling 111 yards. Atypical for them, and Central coach Brad Livingston said he will work to improve that moving forward in the playoffs.

"Apparently we're just a bunch of bad boys," Livingston said. "That's not typical, and certainly we don't want to have those kind of things. I thought our first half was a little sloppy, so it didn't work out too well."

Chambersburg wasn't too disciplined, either. While the Trojans had just six flags for 43 yards, both teams had touchdowns called back for penalties.

THE FIELD GOAL HEARD 'ROUND THE WORLD: One of the most incredible spectacles of Friday night's contest was Central York kicker Kyle Smith's field goal in the fourth quarter to put the Panthers up 26-21.

No one in the stadium had seen anything like it. Smith kicked the ball, and it immediately flew toward the right post. It bounced off the right post, ricocheted in the opposite direction to hit the left post, then bounced down again, hitting the crossbar.

The entire stadium took a collective breath. It somehow went over.

"I've never seen that before in my life," Smith said. "I've hit the post before, and it went in, but I've never hit all three, and it still goes in. Once it went in, I was just amazed myself. I wasn't expecting anything like that."

Even both coaches agreed it was a once-in-a-lifetime highlight.

"I think Kyle might've thought that you got an extra point for each post that you hit," Livingston joked. "But the big thing was he used the whole goal, and he got it in there."

Smith said he did plan to kick it to the right because his warmup kicks were hooking to the left, but he never meant for that to happen.

"Naturally, I'm right-footed, so I hook to the left most of the time," Smith said. "I was trying to be aware of that and not overkick it. I didn't mean for it to go that far right, of course, but it went in."

A SEASON TO REMEMBER: Although the Trojans clearly wanted a different outcome, they have a lot to be proud of this year. They had their first winning season in 14 years, and they proved they can be a threat in the Mid Penn Commonwealth Division.

"I wish we could've gotten this one, but there's no better group of guys to get six wins with than these guys," Trojan safety Taylor Tolbert said. "It still feels good to get a winning season."

Chambersburg obviously wanted the victory, but Saunders said there continues to be a bright future for the team.

"Right now, I have mixed emotions, but I'm a fighter," Saunders said. "It's going to take me three or four hours, then I'll be thinking about next year already."

And there is certainly a lot to look forward to. The Trojans have a strong core returning next year, including Jordan Brown, Ryan Martin, J.T. Hopple, Pickett, Keione Cuff and Zane Stewart, who are all juniors.

"We have a lot to build on," Saunders said. "I'm not going to say I'm satisfied, because I'm not, but I think we're on the right path to being relevant in our division, and I think that's what's important."

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Lizi Arbogast can be reached at 262-4788 or larbogast@publicopinionnews.com.