YORK — The York Comprehensive High School football team began the 2013 season minus 10 starters from its defensive unit. But it doesn’t seem to matter.
Players are stepping up when the game is on the line. With a 6-foot, 4-inch, 230-pound quarterback settling into his position, a premier running back and a receiving corps second to none, the team’s offense is also clicking on all cylinders.
The Cougars — ranked among the Top 10 4A schools in the state and the Rivals Top 100 in the country — continued their ascent into the Palmetto State’s football elite Friday with a thrilling 35-32 win against No. 8 Gaffney.
Rivals100, an affiliate of Rivals.com, reported about the Cougars’ victory: “For the second straight year, York used a win over Gaffney to propel itself into the national rankings.”
With York and Gaffney trading touchdowns for much of the game, the turning point occurred in the waning moments of the third quarter, when the Indians faked a punt from their own 24.
But the Cougar defense stopped Gaffney tailback Hyleck Foster short of the first down.
With the offensive line winning the battle up front, senior running back Ryan Moore rambled to the Gaffney 15 on first down.
Another run by Moore and a pass completion to Josh McCoy set the stage for quarterback DeShaw Andrews’ one-yard TD plunge, staking the Cougars to a 35-25 advantage entering the fourth quarter.
The visiting Indians, defending Big 16 state champions, weren’t through, scoring on a 67-yard screen pass from quarterback Eddie Studyvance to Foster that sliced York’s lead to three.
But it wasn’t enough, with the Cougar defense slamming the door shut and the offense milking the clock the remainder the game.
A second consecutive win had York coach Bobby Carroll passing out accolades after the game.
“I am proud of the offense and special teams play,” said Carroll. “I also am proud of the defensive unit. We have 10 new guys on that side of the ball, and they stepped up when they had to.”
The Cougar defense had its moments, including Chance Kelly’s fumble recovery at a critical stage of the game.
Andrews, who had a huge night with the passing game, including a remarkable 12-for-12 flurry in the third quarter, was all smiles after the game. “I love my receivers,” he said. “If I get the ball to them, they will catch it.”
Andrews said his outlook has changed since throwing three interceptions against Union County in the Bank of York Scrimmage. “I am more relaxed and confident throwing the ball,” he said.
The junior quarterback also has confidence when his number is called near the goal line. “Running behind our offensive line surge feels great,” said Andrews.
After Gaffney scored on its first possession to take the lead with 9:37 left in the first quarter, the Cougars surprised the Indians when wide receiver Markel Castle hooked up with fellow wideout Daurice Simpson on a 51-yard pass play for first down yardage at the Gaffney 29.
The Cougars marched down the field in impressive fashion, with Andrews penetrating the end zone from two yards out for a 7-6 lead.
“I knew Daurice had his man beat,” Castle said of the toss. “I just had to get the ball to him. I’m glad he caught it. It’s a play we go over in practice.”
On Gaffney’s ensuing possession, junior linebacker Dario Brown’s 26-yard interception return put the Cougars up 14-6 with 5:35 remaining in the first quarter.
“I saw it coming and made the interception,” Brown said of the game-changing defensive gem. “We practice that situation every day.”
Other key offensive plays for the Cougars included Moore’s 21-yard TD scamper and Kyron Schrouder’s 11-yard scoring toss from Andrews.