YORK — Jadyn Jones and Brad Hoffman carried the Wilson offense the way they have during the second half of the season.
But to upset defending District 3 Class 6A football champion Central York, the Bulldogs twice had to pull a different, although not unique, play out of their playbook — the field goal.
Sophomore Ben Rada kicked his first two field goals of the season, the second a 21-yarder with 1:13 left to give fifth-seeded Wilson a 14-11 win over top-seeded Central York in the district semifinals.
It was just like an extra point, except the outcome of the game was riding on it.
“Luckily my team got me in range and I came through,” Rada said.
Hoffman and Jones put Rada in position to win the game with a six-minute drive that stalled at the Central York 4. After Adam Woods took a high snap and got the ball set, Rada kicked it right down the middle.
Wilson still had to survive some anxious moments down the stretch. Penn State-bound quarterback Beau Pribula drove the Panthers from their 42-yard line to the Wilson 15. But Matthew Parker missed a potential game-tying 32-yard field goal to give Wilson (9-3) the victory over the Panthers (11-1), last year’s PIAA Class 6A runners-up.
With their seventh straight victory, the Bulldogs advanced to the District 3 Class 6A championship game to face the winner of Saturday’s Hempfield at Harrisburg game. If Hempfield wins, the title game would be Friday at Wilson. A Harrisburg win would send Wilson to Harrisburg next Saturday.
Hoffman and Jones combined to run the ball 56 times for 328 yards as Wilson controlled the clock and kept the ball out of Pribula’s hands. Wilson had the ball for nearly 34 minutes compared to just over 14 for Central York.
“We ate the clock up,” Wilson coach Doug Dahms said. “Obviously the less time he has the football. . . ”
But a couple of mistakes prevented Wilson from taking advantage of its time of possession.
A holding penalty inside the 10 forced Wilson to a kick a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter, Rada’s first field-goal attempt all season.
In the third quarter, Wilson had a long drive stopped inside the Central York 10 by a fumble and Pribula drove the Panthers 94 yards, hitting Imeire Manigault with a 26-yard touchdown pass. After a Wilson penalty on the conversion, Pribula ran it for 2 points and an 11-3 Central York lead.
“Football is football,” Hoffman said. “You’re going to make mistakes. We battled through. We fought adversity and we came out with a win.”
The Panthers looked like they might put the game away with another drive later in the third quarter. But Gannon Brubaker came up with an interception to stop that threat.
Wilson then went 87 yards in 13 plays with Hoffman running the final 2 yards for the touchdown. Hoffman threw to Sean Dendall for the conversion and an 11-11 tie with 8:03 left.
The Wilson defense forced a Central York punt in less than a minute and the Bulldogs took over at their 25 with 7:14 left.
Jones, who rushed 27 times for 161 yards, and Hoffman, who carried 29 times for 167 yards, slowly drove the ball downfield, chewing up yardage and time.
But the drive stalled to set up Rada with the go-ahead kick. The Wilson players and coaches held their breath as Pribula drove the Panthers downfield and broke out into a wild celebration when Parker’s field-goal attempt sailed wide.
“It came down the wire and it was a good win,” Hoffman said. “They’re the No. 3 team in the state and that’s a big upset for us.”