Some early talking points as we begin the countdown to Friday night’s District 3 Class AAA final at Hersheypark Stadium….
— The biggest question for West York this week will be this: How do the Bulldogs slow down Bishop McDevitt’s high-powered passing attack, led by quarterback Alec Werner and receiver Brian Lemelle. Werner has thrown for 2,946 yards this season, while Lemelle (who boasts several Division I offers) has 81 catches for 1,444 yards.
“There’s obviously a lot of pressure on the d-backs to stop the pass and everything,” senior lineman Janssen Nelson said. “But I think it’s more so on the defensive line, because we have to put pressure on the quarterback so the passes don’t get to the receiver.”
Added junior safety Justin Warfel: “I think we have one of the best defensive lines that West York has seen, if not the best. Coverage-wise, we’re always sound and we always get to where we need to be. … We’re talented enough and athletic enough to play with them.”
For head coach Ron Miller, the key will be striking a balance. The Bulldogs’ usually hyper-aggressive defense will need to put pressure on Werner. But they also don’t want to blitz too much and leave their defense exposed.
“So we need to pick and choose a little bit,” the coach said. “And we will. We have a pretty good beat on when we want to go and when we don’t want to go.”
— One area where West York feels it has an advantage? Along the lines.
That’s where the Bulldogs have been able to assert their will in recent weeks, and with good reason. West York’s five offensive lineman are all seniors. It’s defensive line is also loaded with experience.
“Everyone looks at us as the leaders of the team, because we’re the strongest unit, more upperclassmen,” Nelson said. “Five seniors that all have been playing together since rink football.”
Added Miller: “That’s the matchup we like the most — our front four on defense and our front five on offense. That’s where we feel like we can win.”
— During the last two weeks, West York hasn’t had to throw the ball much. In wins over Spring Grove and Susquehanna Township, the Bulldogs attempted a combined 22 passes which produced 164 yards. That’s mostly due to the fact that the Bulldogs run game has taken care of the heavy lifting.
Does Miller anticipate West York having to be more balanced this week?
“I hope not,” the coach said. “We’d love to be able to just pound it and pound it and pound it.
“A lot of it is dictated by whatever a defense gives us … if teams are going to spread out and cover us and get people out of the box, we’re going to run the ball.”
West York has averaged 273.3 rushing yards during its three playoff victories. Bishop McDevitt’s defense, meanwhile, is allowing 16.7 points and 116.7 rushing yards per game this season.
— Four years ago, West York entered the 2008 District 3-AAA final against Manheim Central a heavy underdog. The Bulldogs ended up scoring a 15-7 upset, despite the absence of record-setting running back Brandon Real.
This time, West York will likely be viewed as the upstart again. And its players are OK with that.
“We kind of like that honestly,” Nelson said. “We kind of like being the underdog. Honestly, I don’t think we really get that much respect outside York and Adams Counties.”
Added Miller: “Back in 2008, West York had been down for a few years. In ’07, we made a little bit of run. Then boom, there we were.
“This time, this has been in five years. Been in the district semis. I still don’t think we get any respect. But I think 13-0 is making people think ‘Maybe we better be a little bit more aware of them.’ “