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York Catholic shifts focus to state playoffs

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York Catholic’s football team gathered on the practice field Monday, two days after finally winning the District 3 championship, with some important business to discuss.

Despite all of the Irish football success in recent years, a district title had eluded York Catholic until its fourth consecutive trip to the final and a 51-21 victory against Newport on Saturday night.

So coach Eric Depew wanted to clear the air. He wanted his players to know winning a league divisional title and district title are big accomplishments.

“But it’s time to put it aside, we can talk about all that at the banquet or the rest of our lives,” Depew said.

It is time to concentrate on the state tournament.

Powerful foe

Unlike York Catholic, Dunmore (12-0) has been here before.

Two years ago, Dunmore defeated District 3 champ Wyomissing in the semifinals before falling to South Fayette in the championship game. Last year, Dunmore lost in the state quarterfinals.

The program, still under the guidance of Jack Henzes (in his 50th season), relies on a powerful running game. Kyle Lasher has 1,202 yards rushing, running behind a line that features four players that weigh 250 pounds or more. Dunmore also has a 220-pound fullback, Jordon Petrowski, paving running lanes.

"They are a physical, Bermudian-style football team," Depew said. "They are going to run it down your throat."

New format

Pennsylvania expanded football classifications from four to six before the start of the season. So York Catholic’s path to the state title will be new. That was evident in the District 3 Class 2A bracket, where only two teams advanced to the tournament.

Continuing the win-or-go-home format, York Catholic remains one of 16 teams still standing across the state in 2A.

“It’s like we are playing mini-bowl games,” Depew said.

Should the Irish defeat Dunmore, they will play the District 6 champ, which will be decided between Johnstown's Bishop McCourt (10-2) and Ligonier Valley (12-0) on Friday night in Altoona.

The good news for the Irish is York Catholic would avoid a potential matchup with any team from the football-crazed WPIAL until the state final.

Poor showing

York Catholic is trying to do something unique for a York-Adams school. No YAIAA football team has ever reached a state final, let alone won a state title.

Since the advent of the football state tournament, teams from the York-Adams league have struggled to win. In fact, from its start in 1988 through 2003, no YAIAA team had won a single state playoff game.

The skid ended when Littlestown finally won a state tournament game in 2004.

This has already been a tough season for the YAIAA in District 3 play. Only York Catholic advanced beyond the first week of the postseason. But York Catholic is going to keep it simple this week.

“We want to represent our league and our district at the state tournament,” Depew said. “But we want to win for York Catholic.”

If you go

Who: York Catholic (10-1) vs. Dunmore (12-0)

What: PIAA Class 2A tournament, round of 16

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Harman-Geist Memorial Field in Hazleton