YAIAA football Week 5 preview: This team won its first game in two years. What comes next?
Ivan Quinones will admit he was a little concerned.
His West York football team was on the verge of its fist win in almost two years with a 27-0 halftime lead over York Suburban. But star Trojans running back Mikey Bentivegna ripped off three huge plays to cut Suburban's deficit to 14 points with just under five minutes to go.
"To say it didn't worry me wouldn't be true," Quinones said. "But I was confident we would bounce back."
West York would hold on for the 34-20 win. It was the Bulldogs' first win since a seven-point victory over Susquehannock on Oct. 2, 2020 ― the first game of the COVID-abbreviated season.
West York is the second YAIAA team to end a losing streak that stretched back to 2020 this season. Biglerville also went winless last season but has already earned two wins, over Pequea Valley and James Buchanan.
"Getting the monkey off our back felt really good, because we worked hard all summer and it paid off," West York senior wide receiver/defensive back Darnell Goring-Pollard said. "We had the music blasting. We was up and feeling live."
West York was a local powerhouse just a decade ago, but few would have predicted the Bulldogs to end their winless streak last Friday. Suburban (2-2) was coming off back-to-back wins and features a lot of offensive talent including one of the best players in the league in Bentivegna.
But even after an 0-3 start to the season and 17 straight losses dating back to 2020, the Bulldogs believed they had a chance.
The next question will be whether they can build off that win. The Bulldogs host defending YAIAA Division II champions Kennard-Dale this Friday.
"We know that (the losing streak happened) but we've got a whole new team this year," Goring-Pollard said. "We have the mindset that we're not going to lose and we keep trying to have that mindset.
"I tell everybody this week is our test to make sure it wasn't a fluke last game. This is the test to make sure we're good throughout the season."
2022 football preview:West York has pieces in place to rebound from a 0-10 season in 2021
While West York's win might have been a surprise, it doesn't look like a fluke. The Bulldogs were competitive in losses to ELCO (44-22) and Red Lion (45-32) to start the season. Even in a 35-0 loss to powerhouse Exeter Township, they kept it close for most of the first half.
Still, the Bulldogs have shown fight throughout their prior winless stretches. Kennard-Dale finished 10-2 last year, but both Rams coach Chris Grube and Quinones pointed out the game between the two teams was just 7-0 Kennard-Dale at halftime.
But the goal isn't just to keep games close. It's to win on a regular basis.
Grube knows what Quinones and the Bulldogs have gone through. The Rams went 0-10 his first season in 2016 and improved the next two seasons before posting a winning record (6-4) his fourth season in 2019. Quinones is now in his fourth season after taking over in 2019.
"Ivan came in right before COVID hit so I'm sure that messed up some of his offseasons," Grube said. "He's doing a good job there. This is the first senior class that's been with him for four years. They've got athletes at the skill positions, the quarterback is quick and the sidelines look much bigger. And that's a really good sign.
"Hopefully he continues to have success. Just not this week against us."
It's true that West York has higher participation numbers this year with 45 kids on the roster after having 25 to 30 the past three. They also have returning starters like Goring-Pollard and running back Brandon DeJesus at the skill positions.
One newcomer who has emerged is junior quarterback Mark Walker. A talented basketball player who hadn't played football since the youth level, Walker has emerged as a dual-threat player this season.
"He's added a new dimension to our offense," Quinones said. "He's still a work in progress but we're excited to see what else he's going to bring to the table for us."
This week, the Bulldogs face a Rams team that also just earned its first win of the season (47-21 over Eastern York). Kennard-Dale graduated most of its starters from last year's championship team and had a brutal opening stretch to the season against Wyomissing, Spring Grove and Lampeter-Strasburg. The Rams have also dealt with a number of injuries. Grube said starting quarterback Garrett McCleary didn't play last week with an ankle injury and his status for Friday night is unclear.
But the Bulldogs aren't just looking to add a second win Friday. Despite having just three wins in their varsity careers entering this season, West York's seniors want to make a run at the program's first division title since 2014.
"That's something I've wanted to do since I was a freshman," Goring-Pollard said. "I feel like our team can do anything we set our mind to."
Game Ball of the Week: LeVan McFadden, York Catholic
It was an unfamiliar sight to see York Catholic sitting at 0-3 to start the season.
It hadn't happened since 2015. In the six years since, the Irish got off to fast starts (and fast finishes) five times. The exception was a 1-2 start in 2019 led to 5-5 season.
And this year's team was supposed to be strong again with a lot of returning talent from a team that won a District 3 title with an undefeated record.
One of those talented players, senior quarterback LeVan McFadden, was the catalyst behind York Catholic's first win of the season ― a 35-10 win over Bermudian Springs that wasn't as easy as it looked.
McFadden compiled 363 total yards and scored four touchdowns in the victory. But he actually only passed for 66 while going 3-for-4 on attempts. He rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries and caught three passes for 176 yards and two scores. Those were the first receptions of his varsity career, which dates back to his freshman season.
McFadden's two long touchdown turned a 15-10 close game into a 28-10 blowout.
Freshman Mason Boyer played quarterback when McFadden lined up at receiver and finished with 225 passing yards and three scores.
Play of the Week: Sam Stoner and Montress Jackson, York High
A YAIAA football game featured on ESPN?
A behind-the-back pass will do that.
York High stormed past Northeastern, 54-9, last Friday and the Bearcats had a little fun on one two-point conversion play. Stoner, the star senior quarterback, flipped the ball behind his back to the end zone. Senior fullback Montress Jackson jumped and reached over a defender who had his back turned to snag the pass.
The play was featured in SportsCenter's Top 10 plays both Friday night and Saturday morning.
What to watch for this week
Can contenders avoid upsets?
There's no more undefeated teams in the YAIAA, but South Western nearly remained unblemished last week.
The Mustangs lost to a talented Dallastown team, 20-13, after a crazy fourth quarter that saw the lead change hands and multiple ties be broken. South Western might've had the better record, but it would've been impressive for the Mustangs to topple a 6A team with playoff aspirations.
Now the Mustangs will try to do so again ― this time against a more formidable opponent.
South Western (3-1) goes on the road against Central York (3-1) Friday. The Panthers beat down Spring Grove, 42-7, last week and look like the class of YAIAA Division I once again. The Mustangs have depth at the skill positions and a solid line this year, but they will have to handle a Central team with a superstar running back (Juelz Goff) and wide receiver (Parker Hines) and a multi-skilled and improving quarterback (Nasir Still).
York High (2-2) is hosting Red Lion (2-2) in a matchup that typically helped determine the league title a few years ago. Now, York High appears to be on a roll after two straight wins while the Lions have lost their past two after a 2-0 start. Have the Lions improved enough to compete with Jahiem White and the Bearcats?
In Division II, York Suburban (2-2) will try to shake off the loss to West York on the road against a New Oxford team (3-1) that appears to be the class of the division.
Ready for some predictions?
Which teams do GameTimePA reporters think will win Week 5? Join the York Daily Record's Matt Allibone, Shelly Stallsmith and Dan Rainville for a Twitter Space Wednesday at 7 p.m. to hear their predictions for each game this week. Find the Twitter Space at Matt Allibone's Twitter account, @bad2theallibone.
Week 5 schedule
Friday, Sept. 23
Bermudian Springs at Biglerville, 7 p.m.
Dover at Susquehannock, 7 p.m.
Fairfield at Hanover, 7 p.m.
Kennard-Dale at West York, 7 p.m.
Littlestown at Delone Catholic, 7 p.m.
Northeastern at Dallastown, 7 p.m.
Red Lion at York High, 7 p.m.
South Western at Central York, 7 p.m.
Spring Grove at Eastern York, 7 p.m.
York Suburban at New Oxford, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 24
York Catholic at York County Tech, 1 p.m.
Matt Allibone is a sports reporter for GameTimePA. He can be reached at 717-881-8221, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bad2theallibone.