The wake-up call came two weeks ago for Breaun Randle and his teammates on Central York's defense. It was then, during a visit to Spring Grove, that the Panthers allowed nearly 500 yards in a shootout loss.
"We thought we were pretty good going into that game, and we got it handed to us," said Randle, the Panthers junior defensive end. "So we went back and we said 'No more.' "
While it has only been two weeks since that meltdown, there have certainly been signs of progress.
Perhaps the most encouraging of which came Saturday, during a 21-7 victory at YAIAA Division I foe Dallastown. At various points, Central's defense found itself backed up in its own end by the Wildcats' methodical, ball-control offense. Each time, Randle and his teammates came up with a big stop.
Chalk it up to the willpower of a reinvigorated defense. Or perhaps it was another case of Dallastown's nagging inability to cash in on scoring opportunities.
Either way, the Panthers (5-3, 2-1 YAIAA Division I) emerged with a key victory -- one which strengthened their District 3 playoff position and kept them a game behind Spring Grove in the division standings.
"I thought we stepped up huge at the end of virtually every drive," Central York coach Brad Livingston said. "I thought the defense was exceptional."
Dallastown, meanwhile, saw its wavering playoff hopes take another hit. The Wildcats (3-5, 1-2) entered the weekend ranked No. 17 in the District 3 Class AAAA power rankings. Only the top 16 teams make the playoffs.
This loss was emblematic of Dallastown's season -- undone by missed chances on offense and a few costly lapses on defense. The Wildcats controlled possession Saturday and dominated almost every statistical category. They ran 77 offensive plays compared to Central York's 32 and held a 22-to-6 edge in first downs.
In the first half alone, Dallastown made three trips inside the Panthers' 20-yard line. Those drives produced two missed field goals and a turnover on downs.
"Again, it's not a lack of effort, lack of heart, lack of trying," Dallastown coach Kevin Myers said. "It's just making those plays when those plays need to be made."
Some credit certainly belonged with the Panthers' defense, which held firm despite spending almost the entire game on the field.
Randle, in particular, wreaked havoc in the Wildcats' backfield. The junior, who was moved to defensive end from linebacker after the Spring Grove game, made his biggest contribution in the second quarter. On a fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Randle sacked Dallastown quarterback Andrew Henry to give the Central the ball back.
"We were talking about it before, we said 'We need a sack. We need a sack,' " Randle said. "I said I wanted it, so I got it."
Three plays later, Central quarterback Corey Hartz fired a pass up the seam to Sherief Sutton, who raced 71 yards for a touchdown. That made it 14-0 Panthers with 1:05 before halftime.
Dallastown cut into that lead on the opening drive of the second half. Josh Chronister's 5-yard reception capped a 16-play drive which lasted more than eight minutes.
But Central's defense stiffened after that, and running back Marquis Fells restored the two-score cushion with a 74-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. That was the Panthers' only first down of the second half.
Of Central's 230 total yards, 145 came on those two long touchdowns.
"Take those away, and it's a 7-7 game," Myers said. "But you can't take them away.
"They do a great job of capitalizing on the little mistakes we made. We get an opening, and we don't quite capitalize on it."
Central York 7 7 0 7 -- 21
Dallastown 0 0 7 0 -- 7
CY -- Marquis Fells 21 pass from Corey Hartz (Kyle Smith kick), 4:26
CY -- Sherief Sutton 71 pass from Hartz (Smith), 1:05
Dt -- Josh Chronister 5 pass from Andrew Henry (Chronister kick), 3:29
CY -- Fells 74 run (Smith kick), 11:25
-- CY -- Do
First downs -- 6 -- 22
Rushes-yards -- 24-120 -- 51-184
Passing -- 3-8-0 -- 12-26-1
Passing yards -- 110 -- 142
Total yards -- 230 -- 326
Punts -- 6-34 -- 2-24
Fumbles-lost -- 0-0 -- 1-1
Penalties-yards -- 10-68 -- 7-56
Rushing -- Central York, Marquis Fells 14-92, Sherief Sutton 4-13, Corey Hartz 5-10, Zach Steffee 1-5; Dallastown, Andrew Henry 21-95, Robert Catchings 25-88, Adam Deardorff 3-7, Dezmond Jones 1-4, Team 1-(-10).
Passing -- Central York, Corey Hartz 3-8-0-110; Dallastown, Andrew Henry 12-25-1-142, Nathan Strong 0-1-0-0.
Receiving -- Central York, Sherief Sutton 1-71, Marquis Fells 1-21, Zach Emswiler 1-18; Dallastown, Malik Lewis 5-80, Josh Chronister 3-27, Tyler Grier 1-15, Chandler Green 1-13, Deardorff 1-4, Drew Romesberg 1-3.