Notes: West York powers into District 3 title game
Time to empty the notebook from West York's physically dominant, 31-7 victory over Susquehanna Township on Friday in the District 3 Class AAA semifinal...
-- First, let's start with West York coach Ron Miller's thoughts on his team's opponent next week. Bishop McDevitt (13-0) is the twice-defending district champion. The Crusaders are rated the top AAA team in the state by PAFootballNews.com (West York is No. 4) and the No. 21 team in the country by USA Today.
"They're the No. 1 or 2 team in the state," Miller said. "They're 13-0. We're 13-0. They're the two-time defending (district) champion, Division I players all over the field. We're going to work as hard as we've ever worked, try to give ourselves an opportunity at the end of the game and give them whatever we got."
McDevitt defeated fourth-seeded Lancaster Catholic, 27-7, in the other District 3-AAA semifinal Friday, led by quarterback Alec Werner's 327 passing yards. Werner and reciever Brian Lemelle -- who boasts several Division I scholarship offers -- are just two standout members of a McDevitt offense that is averaging 39 points per game. Werner has nearly 3,000 passing yards this season.
-- Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Friday's game was the dominance of West York's running game. The Bulldogs ran 65 times for 365 yards. They only attempted one pass after halftime, mostly because they didn't need to throw the ball.
At one point in the fourth quarter, West York drove 97 yards on nine plays -- all runs -- to set up James Johnson's clinching, 22-yard scoring run.
Ryan Dixon wrote his sidebar from the game on West York's trio of running backs. Indeed, this rushing attack is largely opposite of the one that carried the Bulldogs to the 2008 district title game. That ground game operated largely on the shoulders of one primary runner: Brandon Real.
Needless to say, the ball distribution this season as been far more democratic. Five West York running backs have at least 242 rushing yards this season. Four have had at least one 100-yard rushing game. Brock Snellbaker (881 rushing yards, 11TDs) leads the team, followed by Johnson (605, 6), quarterback Brandon Kinneman (544, 12), Steven Wilson (391, 2) and Anthony Trone (242, 6).
In their three district playoff games this season, West York is averaging 273.3 rushing yards.
"We pounded that into their head all week," Miller said. "We gotta run, we gotta run. Boy, did we."
-- Let's not forget the yeoman's work put in by the big boys' up front. Before the season, West York's senior-led offense line was touted as perhaps the key to the Bulldogs' district title hopes. Now, late in the season, those lineman are earning their keep.
Their leader, center Brody Kern, had perhaps the quote of the night Friday.
"It doesn't matter if you have a standout running back," Kern said. "If your guys up front are moving the defensive lineman back five, 10 yards, anybody can run back there.
"Our backs played great (tonight), but our line played great, too."
-- As expected, standout Susquehanna Township runner Colby Grant had his moments Friday. The speedy, senior tailback rushed for 133 yards on 15 carries, including a highlight-reel, 38-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Most of his damage, however, came on five runs which accounted for 126 of those yards. On his other 10 carries, Grant went for 7 total yards.
Here's a breakdown of Grant's 15 rushes: 5, -1, -3, 14, -2, 0, 23, 2, 38, 6, 13, 38, -2, 2, 0.
In all, Miller said he was pleased with the way his defense handled Grant, especially during a pair of key goal-line stands in the second and third quarters.
-- The Bulldogs defense spark Friday came courtesy of senior linebacker Nick Duncker, who stepped in front of a pass in the first quarter and returned the interception 48 yards for a touchdown. That gave West York a 10-0 lead.
The interception was Duncker's first of the season.
"I was just kind of sitting back," Duncker said. "He threw it and it kinda just hit me. It was unreal. I didn't really know what to do with it, so I just started running."
"We have a thing, every time I get a pick he's like 'You stole that from me,' " said linebacker-mate Snellbaker, who leads the Bulldogs with seven interceptions. "It was huge."
Duncker ranks second on the Bulldogs in sacks (6.5) and third in tackles (65).
-- Linebacker Anthony Franklin turned in another huge game for West York, with three tackles for loss (by my count). He had a big hit on Grant during the goal-line stand in the third quarter.
Franklin leads the Bulldogs with 106 tackles this season.
-- One statistical oddity from Friday's game: West York standout receiver Zack Smith was held without a catch for the first time this season. Already this year, Smith has set Bulldogs single-season records in receptions (60) and receiving yards (1,085).
Then again, West York only threw the ball nine times Friday. Smith did have 19 rushing yards on three carries.
-- Next week will mark West York's fifth District 3 title game appearance. Here's how the Bulldogs have fared previously in the district finals:
2008 (AAA): West York 15, Manheim Central 7
1997 (AA): Bishop McDevitt 35, West York 14
1991 (AA): West York 29, Bermudian Springs 15
1988 (AA): West York 33, Delone Catholic 14