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Exeter falls short against Central York in thrilling football opener

On a day when Exeter went toe-to-toe with the 2020 PIAA Class 6A runner-up, Central York’s Beau Pribula, not surprisingly, was the difference.

Pribula, who’s committed to Penn State, completed 17-of-24 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score in the Panthers’ thrilling 35-28 victory Saturday at Don Thomas Stadium.

Pribula’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Parker Hines early in the fourth quarter gave Central York the winning margin against the Eagles in the season opener.

“He’s a special player,” Exeter coach Matt Bauer said. “Hats off to him. He’s a great player.”

Despite Pribula’s performance, the Eagles outgained the Panthers 449-400. They received outstanding efforts from several of their players, but their inefficiency in the Red Zone cost them an impressive victory.

They moved inside the Central York 20-yard line five times and came away with no points. On their final possession, Colin Payne’s fourth-down pass to Carter Schmidt from the 8 fell incomplete in the end zone with 38 seconds to go.

“That was the difference,” Bauer said. “That’s quite a swing. If you play in big games, you have to be able to execute. Red Zone is a mentality. We need to improve there for sure and I think we will.”

A holding penalty wiped out Eric Nangle’s touchdown run in the second quarter; the Panthers sacked Payne twice on another series; another holding penalty cost the Eagles in the third quarter; and Payne threw an interception in the fourth.

On top of that, Mike Moser missed field goals of 30 and 35 yards.

“With the effort we got, there’s no way we should have come up on the losing end,” Bauer said. “It’s about executing and making fewer mistakes. That’s what we’re going to stress to them all week. We’re going to correct a lot of things and move past this.”

Payne was terrific in the first start of his career. He completed 16-of-23 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns to tight end J.R. Strauss, who finished with eight catches for 158 yards.

“There’s a bright future for that young man,” Bauer said of Payne, a senior. “He waited his turn. I’m just so proud and happy that he’s getting his opportunity. And Strauss? Wow. He jumps off the page, doesn’t he?”

Strauss caught scoring passes of 14, 29 and 49 yards and hurdled a Central York defender on one of them. Nangle found enough creases to run for 94 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries, but he sat out most of the second half with a leg issue.

Exeter finished with 159 rushing yards on 39 carries.

“That was the plan,” Bauer said. “We needed to establish the line of scrimmage. I think we did that very effectively. We had sustained drives. I wish we would have finished a couple more.”

The Eagles needed to be more precise against Pribula, the state’s Class 6A Player of the Year in 2020, and Central York’s quick-strike offense. His touchdown passes were 18, 29, 82 and 17 yards. The Panthers scored all five of their touchdowns in drives of 2:13 or less.

Pribula’s first touchdown pass to Hines came with nine seconds left in the first half, just moments after Nangle had tied it with an 11-yard run.

“The game was like a darned teeter totter,” Central York coach Gerry Yonchiuk said. “It was up and down, and back and forth. We had opportunities to put them away and we didn’t. That’s a credit to them. They responded every single time.

“They drove the ball down and scored right before the half and then we came right back. That was huge.”

Exeter had a final chance to tie it or win it. Joey Schalffer finished with five receptions for 97 yards, including two wonderful grabs for 50 yards that put the Eagles in scoring position at the end.

But a fumbled exchange on third down and the Panthers’ pressure on fourth down kept Exeter out of the end zone.

“Exeter did a good job of scheming up some things,” Pribula said. “They have some studs on defense. Props to them. The game went exactly how I thought it was going to go. We knew we had to show up and play hard and that’s what we did.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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