Strong Stone Memorial Panther Team Takes 27-6 Win Over Dragons In Season Opener

YAI AJN_0798The York Football Dragons opened their 2016 season on the same note as they did a year earlier, falling to a very strong Stone Memorial team on Thursday, August 18 by the score of 27-6.

The margin, however, was much closer than last year  when the Class 4-A Panthers invaded the Dragon Pit and blasted the Dragons 54-18 in the season’s opener.

The Stone Memorial team has many starters returning, including all-region running back Cody Wyllins, and the Panthers seem to have lost no steam from last year’s team which went through the regular season undefeated.

Wyllins looked impressive against York, as he rushed for 160 yards on 17 carries and scored three touchdowns, including two in the first period when the Panthers pulled out to a 14 point advantage and never looked back.YAI AJN_0628

The Dragons struggled to get sustained drives going, as penalties at key times stopped potential scoring threats.

The game statistics show the contest was much closer than the score indicated, but the difference was in the running game, which saw the Panthers hold a 266-yard to 155-yard advantage.

Alghough York only completed four passes in the contest, they held a 101 to 28 yard advantage in the passing game, including a 70-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Mason Cravens to Austin Johnson in the third period, which would be York’s only score of the game.

Quarterback Mason Cravens led the York rushing attack with 110 yards on 25 carries,

The Dragon offense was  hampered somewhat by the fact that starting runningback Ethan Probst only saw limited action due to an injured ankle.

Probst carried the ball 8 times and picked up 25 yards, while sophomore Cole Cooper had 21 yards on four carries.

The York defensive unit looked good against the powerful Panther running game, giving up only five plays over 10 yards, and putting up a solid goal-line defensive effort in the fourth period to stop a potential Stone scoring drive inside the 5-yard line.

Sophomore linebackers Cole Cooper and Landrick Leffew combined for 20 solo tackles and 6 assists to lead the Dragon defensive unit.  Cooper had 11 tackles and 3 assists, while Leffew had 9 solo tackles and 3 assists.  Ross Wright had 6 tackles and 4 asists, while Jacob McBride had 7 tackles, Davis Hendricks 3 tackles and 2 assists, and Dawson Threet one solo tackle and 4 assists.

YAI AJN_0955Overall, the game was a defensive duel, as the Dragons held the Panthers to a minus 3 yards on their first possession, then Stone held York to only 2 yards on their first possession.

On Stone’s next possession, they put together their longest sustained drive of the game, moving 62 yards in 11 plays, all on the ground except a 13-yard pass completion from quarterback Dylon Dishman to Cody Wyllins, with the score coming on a 4-yard run up the middle after a personal foul penalty against the Dragons had given Stone a first down inside the 5 yard line.

York then took possession at their 35 and Heath Rexroat picked up 9 yards to the 44, and Ethan Probst picked up a first down at the 48.

On the next play, Rexroat was caught in the backfield for an 8-yard los, and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by by Stone at the Dragon 30.

This turnover seemed to give the Panthers some added momentum, as they took only 3 plays to get back on the scoreboard, when Wyllins took it in for his second score of the game from 32 yards out, and Ethan Pierce ran for the 2-point conversion to give Stone a 14-0 advantage with 1:29 left in the first period.

The second period was all defense, with the longest drive either team could put together was 28 yards by York on their first possession of the period, with neither team threatening to score and the first half ending with Stone Memorial continuing to hold a 14-0 lead.

Stone took only 13 seconds of the third period to get on the scoreboard, as  they recovered an on-sides kick at the Dragon 45, and on the first play, Wyllins raced into the end zone for his third score of the night, after which Jared Adams booted the conversion to give the Panthers a 21-0 advantage.

After York was only able to gain 15 yards on their next possession and gave up the ball on a fourth down play, Stone Memorial tacked on another touchdown, which came on a 2-yard dive by Blake Hicks to cap a 53-yard drive and put the home team up 27-0 with 5:47 to go in the third period.

York responded with a 3-play, 73-yard scoring drive, which came on a 70-yard pass from quarterback Cravens to Austin Johnson to put York on the scoreboard for the first time with 4:35 to go in the third period.

York then made a successful on-side kick, which they recovered at the 48, and moved to the Stone 34 before they again gave up possession on an incomplete pass at the Panther 34.

One of the highlights of the fourth period was on Stone’s final possession of the night, the Dragon defense stopped another potential scoring drive after the Panthers had a first down at the York 5 yard line.

On first and goal, Majer Wattenbarger was stopped for a 1-yard loss at the 4 by Landrick Leffew and Ross Wright.  On second down, Jacob McBride stopped Wattenbarger at the one.  On third down, Landrick Leffew caught Wattenbarder for a 3-yard loss at the 4, and on fourth down and goal, Jesse Lafever dropped Hunter Withers for no gain at the 4.

The Dragons then moved the ball 56 yards to the Stone Memorial 40 before time expired.

Although disappointed with the loss, York Head coach Derik Samber said that this game would be a “measuring point” from which to improve and of what they needed to work on.

“Stone is a good team, and the Wyllins kid is one of the best backs we’ll face this year.  He’s hard to tackle, but we missed a lot of tackles, but we’ll be working on that.  Right now we need to start looking at getting ready for White County, a strong 5-A team.”

Coach Samber expressed his appreciation to the great turnout of fans for the first game, stating:  “We were really encouraged to see the tremendous show of support we had here tonight.  It’s always exciting and a real boost to the team to see this type of community support.”

Read this weeks Fentress Courier to get all the statistics.

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