ALTOONA, Pa. – Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to an opposing player.
Trailing 27-21 after a Hunter Hodges fumble return for touchdown, McDowell had Central York backed up on a third and long in Saturday’s PIAA Class 6A semifinal game at Mansion Park Stadium.
They appeared to have a stop to get the ball back and potentially take the lead, but the Panthers’ Beau Pribula, a junior and Penn State commit, alluded defender after defender, scampering 51 yards down to the 5-yard line.
The result was a Cole Luckenbaugh field goal to extend the lead to 30-21 in what was ultimately a 37-21 win for the Panthers.
“It was a designed pass play,” Pribula, who threw for 319 yards and ran for 110 more, said. “No one was open so I scrambled, found some green grass and cut back against the grain. I was frustrated I didn’t get in but it was a good spark when we needed it.”
It was a turning point in a game that saw McDowell score the first 14 points, only to watch at Central York rattled off 27 unanswered in the second quarter to take a 27-14 halftime lead.
“They didn’t really change a whole lot,” McDowell coach Bo Orlando said. “We had a few dropped balls and we kept getting behind schedule (on offense). We were up and had the momentum and they were able to get the momentum back in the first half.”
Still, the Trojans were in it late, that is until Raquel Dewitt intercepted Chris Juchno and returned it into Trojan territory.
Dewitt took it in himself a couple plays later with 1:36 remaining to put the finishing touches on the first appearance in the state title game for Central York (10-1) in program history.
“It’s a childhood dream come true,” Pribula said. “Our goal is to win a state championship.
They came out firing on all cylinders and we didn’t. Once we had a spark on offense we didn’t look back.”
McDowell certainly did have a spark early.
Juchno connected with Braeden Soboleski on a beautiful 46-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive.
Central York too the ensuing possession deep into McDowell (6-1) territory, but Matthew McGregor made a diving interception at the 6-yard line to stop the threat.
That led to a 19-yard drive by McDowell, capped by a 1-yard plunge from Justo Rivera late in the first quarter to make it 14-0.
Over their next 29 plays, Central York scored four times – twice on Pribula touchdown runs, another touchdown run by Isaiah Strugis and a 42-yard pitch and catch from Pribula to Judah Tomb, who finished with 12 receptions for 93 yards.
It was tough ending for McDowell, but for a team that has overcome so much this season, they know they left it all out on the field.
“All this started on July 2,” Orlando said. “They came in, they handled the situation with Johnny. As I said a million times, how many high school kids have to deal with something like that?
“They come in the next Monday and prepare better than I’ve seen in 20 years. The leadership from the seniors trickled down through the entire program. I’m so proud of them.”
Central York, meanwhile, will meet St. Joe’s Prep in the state title game.
District 9 and District 10 football playoff stories are powered by Luton’s Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning; the Allegheny Grille of Foxburg; Nolf Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep & Ram; BGM Custom Wear by Brookville Glove; Gc Town Properties; Charles Leach Agency; Ed Gerg Allstate Insurance; McKan Trucking in Smethport; Burford & Henry Real Estate; Costa’s Ace Hardware and Costa’s Supermarket; Smethport Collision and Garage; Lezzer Lumber; Potter Family Campground; GT Town Properties, LLC.
McDowell 14 0 7 0 – 21
Central York 0 27 0 10 – 37
M – Braeden Soboleski 46 pass from Chris Juchno (Lenny McLaughlin kick), 9:01
M – Justo Rivera 1 run (McLaughlin kick), :49
C – Beau Pribula 11 run (Cole Luckenbaugh kick), 11:43
C – Pribula 2 run (Luckenbaugh kick), 8:30
C – Isaiah Sturgis 1 run (Luckenbaugh kick), 3:24
C – Judah Tomb 42 pass from Pribula (Kick Failed), 11:29
M – Hunter Hodges 11 fumble return (McLaughlin kick), 9:43
C – Luckenbaugh 23 field goal, 10:36
C – Raquel Dewitt 17 run (Luckenbaugh kick), 1:36
First Downs 22 32
Rushes-Yards 27-80 36-217
Comp-Att-Int 21-45-2 25-38-2
Passing Yards 196 319
Total Yards 276 536
Fumbles Lost 2-1 3-2
Rushing: McDowell – Taha Ramahi 7-42, Justo Rivera 12-30, Chris Juhcno 7-18, Torrey Quinn 1-2; Central York – Beau Pribula 10-110, Isaiah Sturgis 14-68, Jahmar Simpson 2-9, Raquel Dewitt 6-20, Manigault 1-3
Passing: McDowell – Chris Juchno 21-of-45, 196 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT; Central York – Beau Pribula – 25-of-38, 319 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
Receiving: McDowell – Braeden Soboleski 5-81, Anthony Emling 7-69, Juston Rivera 5-25, Hunter Hodges 3-21, Matthew McGregor 1-0; Central York – Judah Tomb 12-192, Taylor Wright-Rawls 6-70, Kyle Fontes 3-28, Jahmar Simpson 3-26, Parker HInes 2-9, Isaiah Sturgis 1-3
Interceptions: McDowell – Rashawn Tate, Matt McGregor; Central York – Raquel Dewitt, Jahmar Simpson