West York led York Suburban for the first 47 minutes and 59 seconds on Friday night. But all that mattered was the last second.
With his team trailing by two points, senior kicker Jonas Atkinson trotted onto the field and calmly lined up a 21-yard field goal. When the ball sailed through the uprights to give York Suburban a 23-22 victory, Atkinson raced toward his bench where he was mobbed by dozens of teammates. The frenzied Trojan faithful chanted, "Jo-nas! Jo-nas!"
"Just don't think, trust your abilities, and put it through," Atkinson said of his mindset lining up the kick. "Just get it done for my teammates. They put their faith in me, and so did my coach. So it's just the best feeling in the world to make it. After I made it, everything was a blur."
The York Suburban fans, who were dressed in all black to counter West York's white out, had waited all night to celebrate. They had watched anxiously as their Trojans mounted a comeback after being down 15-0, but still trailed by two in the closing minutes.
But then the Trojans' offense marched 78 yards in the final two-plus minutes to spoil West York's homecoming and pick up their fifth-straight win.
Atkinson's game-winning boot wouldn't have been possible if not for a crucial Trojans' defensive stop moments earlier. After Teague Hoffman cut the lead to 22-20 for York Suburban (5-2, 3-0 YAIAA Division II) with a little more than four minutes to play, the offense couldn't convert the two-point conversion. But the defense had its back, forcing a three-and-out and handing the ball back to Merkle and the offense with 2:22 to go.
Merkle found Collin Mailman, then Brad Smith on back-to-back third downs to move the chains. Then Dajour Henderson chipped in with a 12-yard carry — his longest of the night — before Merkle found Mailman again on pump-and-go route down inside the 10.
"We just wanted to take what the defense gave up and move the ball down the field," Trojans head coach Andy Loucks said. "We run the two-minute offense in practice all the time. We just ran our regular stuff. It's a veteran group. They know when they play their game, they can move the ball on anyone."
Two run plays moved the ball inside the 5, and Loucks sent Atkinson out to win the game.
"I knew he was going to make it," Loucks said. "I told the kids all they had to do was block for him because he was going to make it."
Momentum began to swing in York Suburban's favor in the closing minutes of the first half. After failing to pick up a first down until midway through second quarter, the Trojans' got the spark they needed when Mailman returned a kick to midfield, giving Merkle and Co. great field position. With three seconds left on the clock, Merkle rewarded Mailman when he scrambled and found his trusty target in the corner of the end zone from 5 yards out. Maybe the two-minute drive was a bit of foreshadowing on the Trojans' part.
For the majority of the first half, West York (2-5, 2-1) kept York Suburban's high-powered offense on the sideline. The Bulldogs put together three long drives and forced three-and-outs and a turnover on downs on the Trojans' first four drives. Tyler Folk, who threw for 126 yards in the first half, hit Joe King down the seam for a 50-yard score in the first, then homecoming king Ryan Narber, who finished with 109 yards, punched it in from 5 yards out late in the second, giving West York a 15-0 lead.
"I think we were too tight in the first half," Loucks said. "We seemed like we were trying so hard to make huge plays that we weren't taking the easy plays."
With the win, York Suburban moved into a tie with Dover, who meet next week, for first place in Division II.
"I told the guys it's in their hands," Loucks said. "We beat West York, so now we get Dover, and we just have to go take care of business."
York Suburban0779—23West York8707—22
WY — Joe King 50 pass from Tyler Folk (Mike Messersmith pass from Folk), 7:13.
WY — Ryan Narber 4 run (Evan Keim kick), 1:35.
YS — Collin Mailman 5 pass from Thomas Merkle (Jonas Atkinson kick), :03.
YS — Brad Smith 11 pass from Merkle (Atkinson kick), 9:04.
WY — Ay'Jaun Marshall 6 run (Keim kick), 7:39.
YS — Teague Hoffman 3 run (pass failed), 4:35.
YS — Atkinson 21 field goal, 0:01.
YSWYFirst downs1514Rushes-yards26-3939-168Passing23-348-12Passing yards233185Total yards272353Punts5-253-33Fumbles-lost1-13-1Penalties-yards3-3013-95
Rushing — YS, Dajour Henderson 11-15, Teague Hoffman 2-3, Thomas Merkle 1-4, Travis Edwards 4-10, Jadon Haynes 7-16, Collin Mailman 1-(-9). WY, Ryan Narber 20-109, Anthony Kahley 6-4, Tyler Folk 8-49, Ay'Jaun Marshall 3-12, Ramell Baldwin 2-(-6).
Passing — YS, Merkle 23-34-233. WY, Folk 8-12-185.
Receiving — YS, Mailman 8-105, Brad Smith 8-85, Colin Deardorf 2-12, Henderson 2-8, Hoffman 3-23. WY, Joe King 1-50, Terry Cains 4-83, Dante Dorm 3-52.