West Catholic is a football team full of athletic players with exceptional size, speed and resilience.
An accurate accounting of the Burrs' characteristics, however, is incomplete without a key adjective: intelligence.
On a frigid Friday afternoon at Central York, the Burrs' brains were on full display thanks to its secondary. The group nabbed four interceptions, ended Richland's late comeback hopes and helped West Catholic advance with a 35-7 victory in the second round of the PIAA Class 2A playoffs.
"We watch film [as a team] once a week. But ever since the last week I started watching film" every day on Richland, said senior defensive back Aaron Jenkins.
The top-seeded Burrs (12-2) from District 12 will face the winner of Saturday's game between District 4's Southern Columbia and District 3's York Catholic in the semifinals next weekend.
Jenkins and juniors Hameen Carroll-Shaw, Shakur Smalls and Zahir Booker finished with interceptions. Senior running back Jacir Savoy, who had 182 yards and two scores on 21 carries, sparked the offense with a mixture of explosive and gritty runs.
Jenkins, a 5-foot-8, 155-pounder, pilfered his interception in the third quarter after the Rams, the No. 1 seed from District 6, started to gain some momentum. Richland senior quarterback Joe Hauser had just hit junior Trevor Tustin for a 77-yard score to get the Rams (15-2) to within, 21-7.
The, two official offensive plays later — the previous two were negated by West Catholic penalties — senior Joey Kovachick intercepted West Catholic quarterback Tre Johnson, who started in place of injured starter Zaire Hart-Hawkins.
So, with a chance to make a difference on his mind, Jenkins, keyed in on tendencies he learned from watching all that film.
"I saw how much space was on the sideline, so I knew he was probably going to do a fly [pattern] or try a post on me," Jenkins said.
Jenkins didn't become diligent with his film study until his junior season after he realized the amount of film college athletes watch in preparation for their games. The West Catholic sideline erupted after Jenkins helped flip the script, taking back momentum the Burrs never relinquished.
"It's exciting for us because I feel like once we get that momentum, we're rolling, and nobody can stop us," he said.
Nelson Mandala-Mensah added a touchdown run with 54.2 seconds left in the third quarter. Carroll-Shaw then added a pick-6 with just 38.8 left to go in the quarter.
Booker's interception was a one-handed stab of a pass that was tipped near the line of scrimmage by senior Damen Studstill, who was a terror most of the game.
Johnson finished with a touchdown pass and was efficient in the passing game. West Catholic's defense didn't allow a pass completion until there was 2 minutes, 30 seconds left in the half.
West Catholic 0 12 23 0 — 35
Richland 0 0 7 0 — 7
WC: Jacir Savoy 45 run. Kick blocked
WC: Seth Degree 13 pass from Tre Johnson. Kick blocked
WC: Savoy 9 run. Pass failed
WC: Fantahun 19 field goal
R: Trevor Tustin 77 pass from Joe Hauser. Kick good
WC: Nelson Mandala-Mensah 23 run. Fatnahun kick
WC: Hameen Carroll-Shaw 33 interception. Fantahun kick