West York head coach Ron Miller celebrates West York’s 42-17 win against Spring Grove Friday night at West York.
West York head coach Ron Miller celebrates West York's 42-17 win against Spring Grove Friday night at West York. (Daily Record/Sunday News - Mike Zortman)
The ball hung there, suspended in the black November night, beckoning for somebody to come along and grab it.

For a moment, Brock Snellbaker lost sight of it. The West York linebacker had sent the football skyward, charging in to break up a Spring Grove pass during the first quarter of the teams' District 3 Class AAA quarterfinal on Friday night. At the time, West York was tending a close lead.

"I couldn't find it," Snellbaker said. "and finally I saw it and just snatched it."

When the deflected pass finally settled into the senior's hands, so did the momentum for the second-seeded Bulldogs, during a 42-17 thrashing of the visiting, 10th-seeded Rockets. Snellbaker returned the interception 17 yards for a touchdown -- perhaps the defining play of West York's second mercy-rule victory in as many weeks.

It was part of a tone-setting performance by Snellbaker, who finished his night with two rushing touchdowns, 10 tackles and two interceptions. The rest of the Bulldogs followed suit, too, during a machine-like run of 42 unanswered points.

Once again, there will be doughnuts on Thanksgiving morning at West York.

"That's our goal at the beginning of the year," quarterback Brandon Kinneman said, referring to the program's holiday tradition of gathering with the community. "You're eating doughnuts on Thanksgiving, and you're giving yourself an opportunity to get to Hersheypark."

The Bulldogs (12-0) advanced to the district semifinals for the fourth time in five years. They will host third-seeded Susquehanna Township -- a 27-17 winner over Manheim Central -- next Friday.

West York has not reached the district championship since it won the title in 2008.

For Spring Grove, the loss ended a resurgent season. After a 1-9 finish in 2011, the Rockets rolled to an 8-4 record and a share of the YAIAA Division I title.

But unlike its Week 3 visit to West York -- a nip-and-tuck, 21-17 Bulldogs win -- Spring Grove never established a foothold Friday. The Rockets committed three turnovers, all of which were converted into West York touchdowns.

"If they play like that, they're going to be a tough out," Rockets coach Russ Stoner said of West York.

Little went right for Spring Grove after its opening drive, which produced a 40-yard, Andrew Luckenbaugh field goal. That lead lasted less than a minute. A 72-yard return by Zack Smith on the ensuing kickoff set up Snellbaker's first touchdown run, from 15 yards out.

That, it turned out, was merely Snellbaker's warm-up act.

On a third-and-11 later in the quarter, Spring Grove quarterback Matt Runge rolled right and tried to pick out Austin Nee near the sidelines. It was a play Snellbaker said he had seen the Rockets run before.

"I was right on the guy the first time," Snellbaker said. "I tried baiting him in. I saw his hand release and just made a play."

Snellbaker's interception return made it 14-3. He now has a team-high seven picks this season.

"Once that happened, we really got rolling," West York coach Ron Miller said.

The first-half bombardment did not end until Kinneman found Smith for a 49-yard touchdown 40 seconds before halftime. That pushed West York's lead to 35-3.

West York’s Zack Smith celebrates in the end zone after scoring on a 49-yard touchdown reception. West York beat Spring Grove 42-17 to advance in the
West York's Zack Smith celebrates in the end zone after scoring on a 49-yard touchdown reception. West York beat Spring Grove 42-17 to advance in the District 3 Class AAA playoffs. (Daily Record/Sunday News - Mike Zortman)

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were able to establish the run -- something they failed to do in their first meeting against Spring Grove. They finished with 193 yards, led by Snellbaker's team-high 67. On the other side, West York's defense penned in Rockets tailback Jeff Delaughter, who was held under 100 rushing yards in a game for the first time since September. He finished with 58 yards on 18 carries.

So for one team, it was the end of a foundation-laying season.

For the other, it was another emphatic step toward a season-long goal.

"That's the biggest thing," Kinneman said. "Getting 48 more minutes."

   

Spring Grove    3    0    0  14 -- 17
West York  14  21  7    0 -- 42

First Quarter
   SG -- Andrew Luckenbaugh 40 field goal, 7:40.
   WY -- Brock Snellbaker 15 run (Chris Markel kick), 6:49.
   WY -- Snellbaker 17 interception return (Markel kick), 2:29.
Second Quarter
   WY -- Snellbaker 7 run (Markel kick), 10:51.
   WY -- Brandon Kinneman 11 run (Markel kick), 3:26.
   WY -- Zack Smith 49 pass from Kinneman (Markel kick), 0:40.
Third Quarter
   WY -- Kinneman 1 run (Markel kick), 2:24.
Fourth Quarter
   SG -- Jeff Delaughter 6 pass from Matt Runge (Luckenbaugh kick), 9:18.
   SG -- Runge 10 run (Luckenbaugh kick), 3:31.
  
  SG  WY
First downs -- 14 -- 10
Rushes-yards -- 38-151 -- 34-193
Passing -- 11-27-2 -- 4-12-0
Passing yards -- 172 -- 106
Total yards -- 323 -- 299
Punts -- 3-31 -- 4-40
Fumbles-lost -- 1-1 -- 1-1
Penalties-yards -- 5-35 -- 4-30

 
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
   Rushing -- Spring Grove, Matt Runge 15-65, Jeff Delaughter 18-58, Austin Nee 2-24, Logan Hagerman 1-2, Tyler Daugherty 1-2, Evan Himes 1-0; West York, Brock Snellbaker 8-67, Brandon Kinneman 9-43, Steven Wilson 5-40, Brandon Kinneman 8-32, Ross Campbell 1-9, Joseph Smith 3-2.
   Passing -- Spring Grove, Runge 11-27-2-172; West York, Kinneman 4-12-0-106.
   Receiving -- Spring Grove, Nee 4-86, Hagerman 4-75, Delaughter 2-2, Austin Klunk 1-9; West York, Zack Smith 2-51, Anthony Trone 1-51, Wilson 1-4.