3 keys: Undefeated Red Lion hosts upset-minded Dallastown
The rivalry is renewed Friday.
Dallastown at Red Lion football, 7 p.m. kickoff. Click here to watch the game live at GameTimePA.com.
Where will it be won or lost? Here are three key factors entering the contest:
Will Red Lion be unblemished following Friday’s game?
Friday is the YAIAA regular-season finale, and the Lions sit with a 9-0 mark. Such a record is a big deal for the program.
Head coach Jesse Shay took over the program in 2013 as the team was coming off a 1-9 season, and has posted a 17-15 overall record since. The last two years, the team has winning records under its belt — 6-4 and 7-3 in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
“Those seasons don’t happen often and they’re incredibly special to everyone. The players, the staff, the community,” Shay said. “People say, ‘We went 10-0.’ And that’s not even people who played in the game. That’s fans, that’s the student section talking.”
In the words of quarterback Sam Emig: “It’s a huge deal. I’ve been playing with these guys since seventh grade, and it’s been our goal ever since. It’s something we’d never forget, that’s for sure.”
Last year, Red Lion ruined Dallastown's bid for a perfect season in this same finale game.
Can the Wildcats return the favor in 2016?
There’s no way around this: Red Lion is the better team on paper entering the contest.
The Lions are 9-0 after all, holding an advantage on both the offensive and defensive lines. The Lions’ closest margin of victory this season? Ten points, coming in a 28-18 win againstCentral York on Oct. 21.
But Dallastown is no slouch. At 7-2, the Wildcats are a more than capable football team.
This is also the top rivalry game in York County, and there’s no way predicting how 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids will respond in that environment.
Then there’s the mentality of the underdog. While the buzz surrounds Red Lion, Dallastown enters with perhaps less pressure, and certainly a chip on its shoulder. In short, a win here would make the Wildcats’ season. They have everything to gain and not a whole lot to lose.
Don’t overlook key elements throughout the evening: turnovers, momentum, and just the simple nerves that come in taking the field in a game of such magnitude.
“Anxious,” Red Lion running back Dylan Gurreri said of his nerves early in the week. “I mean, it’s the same with every game. But in this rivalry you get a little more anxious before. Been waiting the whole year for it, to play them again. It’s always a good time.”
Keep an eye on crunch time in this one. A close game in the fourth quarter would shift momentum dramatically, eliminating Dallastown's underdog label.
It's the third phase of the game, but it's vitally important nonetheless.
Dallastown has a very good kicker in soccer player Drake Pew, who drilled a 47-yard field goal last week in the team’s 31-27 loss to Central York. Pew is also the team’s punter.
Red Lion, meanwhile, has a unique kicking situation: Quarterback Sam Emig handles the kicking and punting duties for the team.
In a close game, special teams will be a key element. The unit can decide the outcome, whether it be flipping the field position on punts and touchbacks; getting a momentum-turning play out of the return game; or knocking home – or blocking -- field goals and extra points.
“There haven’t been very many times in this game when special teams hasn’t made a big difference,” Dallastown head coach Kevin Myers pointed out.
Pew has had a good year for the Wildcats and is excited going into Friday.
“I just try to keep a clear head,” Pew said of his mindset when lining up for a kick. “I try to treat every kick like it’s a game-winner.”
If you go
Who: Dallastown (7-2, 4-2) at Red Lion (9-0, 6-0)
What: YAIAA football game, Week 10
Where: Red Lion High School
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Watch live: The game will be livestreamed at GameTimePA.com