Notes from the final night of the football season
A loss -- and especially a tough loss -- is rarely a time to find perspective. The pain, the disappointment ... it's all still fresh.
Certainly, there were plenty of long faces seen piling on the West York team buses, following a 24-13 loss to Lampeter-Strasburg in a District 3 Class AAA semifinal. That much was understandable.
"You spend all that time with these kids," Bulldogs coach Ron Miller said. "We don’t stop. We’re with them more than their parents are. And I mean that sincerely. You develop very close relationships with these players."
Then again, football was not the only important thing the Bulldogs did Friday.
Earlier in the day, the entire football team attended the funeral for the parents of former longtime West York coach Terry Bupp. Both passed away earlier this week.
It all made perspective a bit easier to find, even in defeat.
"That’s what this is all about," Miller said. "Obviously you want to win football games. But to have the type of community and the type of program, we’re proud of that."
"It doesn't matter if you graduate in 1940 or 2012," senior quarterback Kaden Hepler said. "Once you’re a Bulldog, you’re always a Bulldog. It’s not certain individuals, it’s more of a family."
Fake punt falters: One of the focal plays of West York's defeat Friday was its failed fake punt attempt in the fourth quarter.
Down 17-13 midway through the quarter, the Bulldogs faced a fourth-and-6 from their own 24-yard line. Punter Zack Smith made a read at the line of scrimmage and called for a fake. His run right was stuffed three yards short of a first down.
It was a critical moment -- Lampeter-Strasburg scored five plays later to take a 24-13 lead. Still, the Bulldogs had good reason to put the ball in Smith's hands. The junior has been a special teams ace this season, both as the team's punter and its punt returner. Smith had executed several successful fake punts this season, including a passing play against Susquehanna Township that set up a touchdown.
"That’s all him," Miller said earlier this week. "That’s all reads he makes."
This time, it just didn't work out. The Bulldogs also were stopped short on a fake punt in the second quarter, when Smith pitched to freshman Ross Campbell on a reverse. That play was called from the sidelines.
Smith figures to be one of West York's top returning players next season. He was second on the team in receiving with 25 catches and 548 yards. He reeled in nine touchdown catches.
Kinneman comes up big: When West York junior Brandon Kinneman dropped a potential touchdown pass midway through the third quarter, it looked like a costly mistake. The Bulldogs were trailing 10-7, and had found only pockets of offensive production against a stout Pioneers defense.
But two plays later, Miller dialed up Kinneman's number again. On a third-and-9 from the LS 33-yard line, Hepler lofted a screen pass to the junior, who raced down sideline for the go-ahead touchdown.
"I said ‘Brandon keep your head up. We’re going to get another shot at this.’" Hepler said. "He made a great play.
"I felt bad for him," Miller said. "I’m glad that (offensive coordinator Jeremy Jones) went back to him and he made a play. It shows what kind of character he has."
That has to be encouraging for West York. Kinneman has a good shot to enter next season at the Bulldogs' starting quarterback.
Baker, Ford go out in style: With Central York's 28-21 loss to Central Dauphin on Friday, one of the YAIAA's top quarterback-receiver partnerships came to an end.
Panthers seniors Brandon Baker and Jalil Ford both posted staggering offensive numbers this season. Baker completed 18-of-30 passes Friday for 227 yards and three touchdowns. He finished the season with 1,952 passing yards, along with an incredible 31 touchdown throws and just five interceptions.
Twenty of those touchdowns went to Ford, who capped his senior campaign with a five-catch, 128-yard performance and two touchdown grabs Friday. Ford had 50 catches and 862 yards on the season.
Looking forward: So what to expect from these two teams next season? Both lose key players to graduation. But both also have plenty of reasons for optimism.
West York must replace a group of 15 seniors, headlined by Hepler and safety/receiver Jerrin Toomey. But the majority of the Bulldogs defense is back, along with junior running back Brock Snellbaker and junior two-way lineman Brody Kern. Miller has stressed all year how young his team was. The Bulldogs should a force once again next year.
Central must replace a group of 18 seniors, and will have serious gaps to fill on defense. But junior Corey Hartz has earned reps at quarterback before and should be ready to take over, and junior Marquis Fells gives the team an experienced running back. The question may be how well Central is able to fill in around them, especially along the lines.
Then again, a lot can happen throughout the course of an offseason. Let the countdown to training camp begin.