Reactions from Central York-West York, plus other quick hits from Week 1
So it has begun. Another YAIAA football season has swept onto the scene, and not without its share of significant storylines. We saw Dover dominate, Dallastown pick up where it left off and South Western kick-start its season in fine fashion.
But perhaps the most intriguing game -- the one I was lucky enough to take in -- took place at West York High School, where Central York busted a three-game losing streak in this neighborhood feud with a 13-7 win.
After the game, you could see just how much this one meant to the Panthers. Quarterback Brandon Baker said it felt like "Christmas morning." For a team coming off a frustrating 2010 season, this was a huge step in the right direction.
After the jump, a few stream-of-conscious reactions to Friday's opener...
-- Who knew Brandon Baker could run like that? The Central York senior rushed like his pads were on fire Friday; in all, he tucked it under 20 times and churned out 134 yards. Time and again he eluded pressure and turned a sticky situation into positive yards. What's more, he never seemed to shy away from contact, lowering his shoulder and plowing into defenders on more than one occasion. "There was so much anger built up," Baker said. "I just wanted to unleash it."
Baker was unable to run much last year, due mostly to a smattering of injuries. He ran for 98 yards all of last season. Finally healthy, Baker flashed a different side of his game Friday.
The senior was solid throwing the ball, as well. He finished 12-for-21 for 114 yards and two scores, and had another 50 yard completion called back because of an illegal motion penalty. He threw two interceptions, but those came on 1) a desperation heave into the end zone before halftime and 2) a pass that deflected off his receivers hands. If the early returns are any indication, it appears the frustrations of 2010 are well behind him.
--This Panthers defense probably isn't going to allow many points. This might have been the one aspect of Central York that was given short shrift in the lead-in to this game. This defense pitched five shutouts last season, and returned nine of its 11 starters. The defensive line, in particular, is going to give teams all sorts of trouble. West York quarterback Kaden Hepler had almost no time to pass Friday, especially in the second half. Defensive ends Kevin O'Grady and Kwe Parker are going to be a nightmare for opposing tackles.
--I was impressed with how physical Central York was on offense. Remember, this was a team that was overpowered up front last season. The Panthers couldn't run the ball (1,157 rushing yards) and couldn't give Baker time to throw. But Central wore down the Bulldogs defense Friday, especially on the decisive 20-play, 96-yard drive. Granted, West York was breaking in a lot of new faces at defensive line and linebacker. And granted, one of the Bulldogs anchors, Brody Kern, suffered a right leg injury and was limited in the second half. But tonight was an encouraging sign that the Panthers offensive line has indeed made some serious strides.
--The Panthers skill players were as advertised. Junior Marquis Fells reeled in a 49-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, and looked comfortable out of the tailback spot (10 carries, 56 yards). Saladin Dickson ran well. And while Jalil Ford only had one catch for 13 yards, he created space on a few plays and still demands attention on the field. He and Baker narrowly missed hooking up on a long touchdown pass in the third quarter, after Ford blew past his defender.
--What does this mean for West York? It means next week's home game against Governor Mifflin looks a whole lot more essential. West York has never started 0-2 under Miller, and while a loss wouldn't spell the end for the Bulldogs season by any means, it's still a spot they do not want to be in. Governor Mifflin is a physical football team, and will be coming off a win against rival Wilson. West York will need a more consistent effort on the offensive and defensive lines, especially if Kern's injury turns out to be more than just a one-game deal.
All that said, it's way, way too early to start feeling around for the panic button. West York is going to score points. You have to figure this is one of the better defenses the Bulldogs will play all season. Hepler was beat up by the end of Friday's game. The key will be keeping him upright. Give him time to throw, and he's going to pick apart defense.
A last thought: Before the season, Bulldogs coach Ron Miller extolled his squad's senior leadership, and felt it would be a key to his team's success. Friday's loss was a draining one, but it ultimately won't be the defining moment of this season. (This same, incidentally, is true for Central.) There are at least nine games to go for both these teams. For West York, it's times like these where that leadership needs to come to the fore.
Other thoughts on Friday night's results ... How about Dover? The Eagles scored seven touchdowns on their first seven possessions against Hanover. Talk about a statement to start the season. Hanover is not a doormat by any means. ... It was not pretty for Dallastown. But for a team with so many new players, scratching out a tough victory on the road says something. The Wildcats won't win 10 games again, but here's more proof this program is here to stay. ... Hard to imagine a much better start for South Western. A 41-0 shutout of Gettysburg showed the Mustangs' potential. They'll be in the mix come seasons end. ... Solid start for Delone, which flashed its revamped pass game against New Oxford. A more balanced offense makes the Squires even more dangerous. ... I was fairly high on Northeastern heading into Week 1, and for one game at least, the Bobcats seemed to justify that. The non-division schedule after this is rough, but I still think a .500 season is a real possibility for this still-young program. ... Tough way to start the season for Red Lion, but the main takeaway from a lopsided loss to Cumberland Valley is this: The Eagles are on a different level than just about everybody else. ... Rough opening to Russ Stoner's head coaching career. The good news is, it can only get better from here. ... Some surprising offensive struggles for Littlestown. The Thunderbolts have a lot of new players, but it's still odd to see a Mike Lippy team get shut out. ... Finally, hard to imagine a more successful head coaching debut than the one Brian Freed had Friday night. Division III is pretty muddled after Delone and Bermudian. A five- or six-win season isn't out of the question at all for the Trojans.