After ending one drought by winning a YAIAA division title, York Catholic's football team eyes another big prize as it prepares to play Newport in the District 3 Class 2A championship game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. Jim Seip, GameTimePA.com
York Catholic coach Eric Depew paused for just a moment.
He doesn't want to think about what his players would feel like if they lost in a District 3 title game for a fourth straight year.
"I can't imagine what it would be like," Depew said.
The Irish ended a 24-year drought in winning the program's first regular-season division title since 1992. But now comes the difficult part. The Irish haven't won a District 3 championship in football since 1982, the first year of the tournament's existence. For a little bit of context, that year the Irish beat Reading Holy Name, a school that no longer exists after it merged to help form Berks Catholic.
York Catholic has experienced an unusual dry spell, considering it has been a consistent winning program: This will mark York Catholic's 17th postseason appearance and seventh appearance in the title game. Always in the hunt, the trophy has been tantalizingly close — but for 34 years it has been just out of York Catholic's grasp.
"We talk about how nice it would be to have a team banner, that's something that will hang in the school forever," Depew said.
In order to bring home the title, York Catholic will once again turn to some familiar faces. Quarterback Dan Yokemick and running back Jakkar Kinard, the "one-two punch" as Depew calls them, will be the Irish playmakers on offense.
Expect Yokemick (1,182 yards passing, 16 TDs, six INTs) and Kinard (1,709 yards rushing, 19 TDs) to have chances to score thanks to the big boys up front, or "trenchmen" as Depew calls them. That group is anchored by senior lineman Adam Bittner, senior lineman Michael McKim and senior tight end Ryan Sewell.
York Catholic's defense has a somewhat new wrinkle this season, as its defensive alignment includes a three-man front. Teams have seen it before, but it's new this year in the sense that last season, York Catholic typically installed its "changeup" defense only in the second half of games. This year, the Irish (9-1) decided to stick with what has worked, rolling with a three-man defensive line all year long.
They will be faced with stopping Tri-Valley League champion Newport (9-1). The team's only loss came against non-conference foe Dubois, from western Pennsylvania.
The Buffaloes are an offensive machine. They have scored 30 or more points in eight games, including scoring 50 against three opponents.
"They are a solid team, good quarterback, good running back," Depew said.
Newport's Noah Heimbaugh has completed 53 percent of his passes (115 of 214), throwing for 2,087 yards with 26 touchdowns and five interceptions. Drew Paden (725 yards receiving) is his favorite target. Running back Elias Goodling has rushed for 1,494 yards with 19 touchdowns, and he has cracked 100 yards rushing on eight occasions.
Even in their loss, the Buffaloes offense hasn't been contained: Dubois scored 14 fourth-quarter points to secure a 42-35 win.
That's why Kinard could be the player to watch. After sitting out the majority of the Biglerville game, Kinard came back to the field determined. His last three games have been a tour de force, rushing for 281, 264 and 313 yards in the final three games. During that stretch, he's piled up 12 touchdowns. If he breaks out again, that should mean a big day for Yokemick, who can hurt teams with his arm and legs (758 yards rushing).
And that could mean York Catholic could bring home another district title.