The 2020 Central York Panthers: The Best of the Best
Hey wait a minute. York County can’t play high school football – at least not on a par with the Mid Penn or the Lancaster-Lebanon leagues.
While it is fun to watch the YAIAA on the gridiron every season, don’t expect those teams to do much in the playoffs. Especially the big schools.
However, all of that changed in this crazy fall of 2020.
Central York was as good as – no check that – better than the rest this season and proved it with a march not only to a District 3 6A title, but all the way to the PIAA championship game.
And the Panthers belonged in the big game, no matter who could or could not compete because of COVID-19. Central beat every school in its path en route to Hersheypark Stadium last Saturday.
Although that title tilt didn’t turn out as many hoped for the Panthers, it’s safe to say that few – if any – other teams would have given St. Joseph’s Prep any better of a game than the 62-13 final score.
With no less than four players that are sons of former NFL standouts, St. Joe’s may very well be the greatest high school team ever assembled in Pennsylvania. Most certainly, the Hawks are in the conversation after a third straight state title.
For that reason and more, the championship game takes nothing away from what Central accomplished. The Panthers not only beat everyone else through 10 games, they outscored those opponents a collective 530-93 along the way.
They topped a nationally ranked Central Dauphin team 42-15 on the Rams’ home field. They beat an outstanding York High team, 48-21 to win the YAIAA’s first big-school District 3 title.
Up next was state opponents Delaware Valley and McDowell (Erie) and despite falling behind in both of those contests, including 14-0 to McDowell, Central steamrolled through those games by a combined 97-48.
Did the Panthers get some breaks along the way, avoiding both Harrisburg and Pittsburgh Central Catholic? Perhaps. But I would not have bet against Central against either of those teams.
As Panthers coach Gerry Yonchiuk said, “when you continue on in this type of playoff run, everybody gets better and better.”
That was the case here and Central was ready for them all, doing the YAIAA and all of York and Adams Counties proud every step of the way. The Panthers willingly took this entire sports area for a ride none of us will soon forget.
According to Yonchiuk, it was easy for the team to develop a “why not us” attitude.
“It doesn’t matter to these guys if they play York-Adams, the Mid Penn or the LL league. I don’t think they look at it that way,” the coach said. “Through the history of not faring so well (in playoffs), these guys don’t see that. They don’t hear that.”
Central had so many weapons, from junior quarterback and Penn State recruit Beau Probula to Bucknell-bound tight end Kyle Fontes. Running back Isaiah Sturgis, along with a trio of receivers, Judah Tome, Taylor Wright-Rawls and Parker Hines were too much for teams to match up against.
“I’ve never been exposed to anything like that,” said Yonchiuk. “Kyle is a nightmare matchup. Then outside when you have the speed of Judah and Taylor and with the emergence of Parker Hines this year and how much confidence he continued to get really helped us. And we were not just a passing team.”
Defensively, Cole Luckenbaugh, Seth Griffiths, Jack Smith, Carter Glassmyer and others anchored a group that allowed a mere 10 points during the entire six-game league season.
“It’s been special,” said Yonchiuk. “These guys (had) been waiting for this all of their lives, I just happen to be the lucky one to come in with them their senior year. It’s so much fun to be around them.”
Indeed, Central had a historic season.
Prior to the 2020 Panthers, the only YAIAA team to win a bigger classification district title came in 2008 when West York won the AAA championship when there were four
The Bulldogs did that by beating the unbeatable, Manheim Central, in the championship, even after giving up a touchdown on the first play of the game, which would be the only score the mighty Barons would manage.
What many may not remember, that was also considered a state playoff game as District 3 finale was a PIAA quarterfinal that year. Although West York’s run ended the following week against an amazing Thomas Jefferson team, that was the best team we’ve seen until now.
Certainly, the YAIAA has had smaller schools, York Catholic and Delone Catholic, achieve playoff success. But the bigger schools were always a different story.
Until Central York. Until this year.
Way to go Panthers!