The York High football team followed its usual postgame ritual Saturday, as Falcons players gathered in front of the bleachers at Bailey Field to salute their home crowd.
While the moment has been celebratory for most of the season, it turned bittersweet Saturday. York’s season had ended in a 34-6 loss to Hopewell in the VHSL Class 3 state quarterfinal.
Falcons coach Doug Pereira tried to put the game in perspective for his team, which had transformed itself after finishing with a 1-9 record a season ago.
“Nobody ever expected you guys to be where you are heading into this season,” he said. “It’s a sad moment right now, but this season has been a happy one. Take the happiness with you.”
No. 3 seed York (9-4) scored the first touchdown of the game, but No. 4 seed Hopewell (9-4) responded with 34 unanswered points to win the Region 3A final.
The Blue Devils move onto their third straight state semifinal appearance. They will face Region 3B champion James Monroe next Saturday.
“Runner-up is not what we wanted,” Falcons senior wide receiver Cole Lytle said. “Still, I never could’ve imagined coming into the season we could’ve gotten this far.”
Both team’s offenses stuttered to start the game. Then, two minutes into the second quarter, York junior quarterback Ramsey Hayyat found Lytle streaking across the field for an 18-yard touchdown to put the Falcons ahead.
However, Hopewell responded just two plays later with a touchdown of their own to tie the game. Blue Devils senior quarterback Greg Cuffey found Kavion Cox wide open in the middle of the field, and Cox dashed for a 76-yard score.
York ended the second quarter with two interceptions in their own end zone, but even with the takeaways, the Falcons could not keep the Blue Devils off the scoreboard.
Sophomore linebacker Tri Cartwright grabbed the second interception but fumbled during his return, which set up a 26-yard field goal for Hopewell as time expired in the first half. The Blue Devils took a 9-6 advantage into the halftime break.
With the lead in hand, Hopewell rolled through the second half.
Senior running back Ronnie Walker scored three straight rushing touchdowns, including two in 20 seconds after York fumbled away the kickoff return in between. The Indiana commit ran for 127 yards on 13 carries.
The Falcons turned to their passing game as they tried to play catchup, but they could not gain any traction. They finished with 43 rushing yards and 150 passing yards; the Blue Devils finished with 205 rushing yards and 255 passing yards.
Yet even when York faced a double-digit deficit with time dwindling, the Falcons continued to show fight.
“That’s the attitude our coaches instilled in us: Never give up, even if you’re down,” senior linebacker Adam Lytle said.
Yanchulis can be reached by phone at 757-298-5176. Follow her on Twitter @KYanchulis.