The day after: West York-Susquehanna Township
Wow. What more can you say, except "What a game." I made the comment to my colleague Steve Navaroli that last night's District 3-AAA semifinal was probably the most exciting 7-6 game I've ever seen, and I think there are a lot of people who would agree.
There were big hits and game-changing plays. Most of all, there was the tension that only a game of that magnitude can offer. You went into every play in that fourth quarter thinking to yourself "This could be the play that wins or loses the District semifinal." It was truly great theater, and a reminder of what makes high school sports so compelling.
In the end, of course, third-seeded West York fell agonizingly short, losing to No. 2 Susquehanna Township 7-6. But I doubt you'll find anybody this morning who saw that game -- whether they be a West York or a Township fan -- that doesn't have good things to say about the heart this Bulldogs team showed. The Indians were the bigger and the faster team, but West York was right there all along, and was inches away from a return trip to Hersheypark Stadium.
Let's take a look back at some of the major talking points from last night's game.
1. The Defense. You have to start here, because West York's defense was simply marvelous. This is a Township offense that came into the night having posted 50 and 42 points, respectively, in its last two playoff wins. The Indians had been held under 27 points in a game once before Friday. But not only did the Bulldogs shut down dynamo QB Ben Dupree (121 yards from scrimmage), but they forced three turnovers, something they had to do in order to have a chance.
You could certainly argue -- and I will -- that this was the Bulldog defense's best performance of the season, especially when you consider the stage and the opponent. This is a unit had been scrutinized quite a bit the last few weeks, after allowing 47 points to Littlestown and 28 to Mechanicsburg. But West York's D forced three turnovers, and came up with its finest performance in some adverse circumstances.
"They've been questioned a lot, our coaching staff has been questioned a lot and I take an awful lot of pride in the work we've done," West York coach Ron Miller said of his defense. "That's good. It served as motivation for us."
2. Going for Two. Miller raised some eyebrows two Fridays ago with his gutsy call to go for two in double-overtime against Conestoga Valley. But I don't think his gamble in the third quarter Friday surprised anybody.
I think most people would agree it was the right call. An offsides penalty on Township had moved the ball up to the 1-yard line, and considering how well West York's offensive line had been playing, you had to bet on them getting that yard. Also, factor in that the Bulldog special teams had been less-than reliable the last week or two. West York failed on a pair of extra-point attempts against Conestoga Valley, and had seen a punt partially blocked earlier Friday night. Converting an extra point -- even with the whipping winds at their back in the third-quarter -- was far from a gimme.
All that seemed to make going for two the right call. Hard to second guess here, even though Harris was stopped inches (and literally, I mean inches) short of the goal line.
3. West York's fourth-quarter drive. Even after being stopped short on the two-point conversion, the Bulldogs found themselves well-positioned to take the lead, driving down to the Township 6-yard line mid-way through the fourth. But on second-and-goal, Alex George's pass into traffic was intercepted by Indians DB Mike Johnson.
Here's what Miller had to say afterward about the play.
"It's unfortunate with the interception. We didn't want to pass at all. We got lined up in the wrong formation. And they were flowing so hard with everything they were doing. (Alex) saw (tight end Nate Kosalek) break open and took a shot at it.
"That's our fault. We should have kept pounding it, but I thought we were going to walk in at that point."
Up until that pass, the Bulldogs had marched downfield 53 yards on 12 plays. Ten of those plays had been runs, so certainly that's what the Indians were expecting. If you want to nitpick, you can second guess the playcall, but I'm wary of doing that. Miller had dialed all the right buttons through this run, and he knows his players better than anybody. He put the ball in the hands of his senior quarterback, and it's hard to fault him for doing that.
As for play itself, give credit to Johnson. He made a good read and made the play, which is something good players on good teams do.
All in all, every West York fan can wake up feeling proud this morning. To lose the players they did after last year's District title run and still come within yards of a return trip to Hershey is impressive. It's quite an accomplishment by these players and this coaching staff, and once the hurt from last night's loss wears off I'm sure they'll fully realize that.