The York Comprehensive High School football team reached the 4A Division 11 championship finals with play few opponents could match.
In the showdown at Williams-Brice Stadium, however, the Spartanburg Vikings used big plays to come from behind for the 49-28 win.
The Cougars came out strong in the first quarter, to the delight of a huge throng of noisy York fans.
After forcing a Spartanburg punt on the Vikings’ first series, the Cougars marched 60 yards on eight plays, culminating with senior quarterback Deshaw Andrews’ eight-yard touchdown run. Two first-down passes from Andrews to sophomore wide receiver Wally Wilmore keyed the drive.
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The Vikings answered in big-play fashion with quarterback Austin Scott’s 69-yard scoring pass to running back Tavien Feaster.
The Cougars returned the favor with the 6-4, 250-pound Andrews engineering a 13-play, 80-yard drive that ended with him finding the end zone from a yard out.
Key plays in that drive included a 15-yard pass to Kyron Schrouder to York’s 35 and a first-down toss to Shrine Bowl pick Daurice Simpson that set up Andrews’ score. Also contributing was junior running back Brandon Garvin.
The Cougars were the victim of a bad break on Spartanburg’s next possession, when Scott’s 58-yard heave to Cedarius Rookard was tipped twice before landing in Rookard’s hands for the touchdown.
A missed point-after attempt left the Cougars clinging to a 14-13 lead.
The Cougars then managed a 65-yard scoring pass from Andrews to sophomore receiver Shandon Cobb to push them ahead 21-13.
Spartanburg answered again with a big play and added a two-point conversion to knot the score at 21.
Feaster, a junior who is one of the top running backs in the nation, scored from two yards out with two ticks left on the clock, staking the Vikings to a 28-21 halftime lead.
Scott’s one-yard sneak with 4:42 left in the third quarter stretched the Vikings’ lead to 35-21.
The Vikings limited the Cougars’ offense for much of the second half, while adding to the lead.
Garvin scored the Cougars’ final touchdown from three yards out, and Spartanburg added a late score.
Cougars head coach Bobby Carroll credited the win to the Vikings after the game.
“Spartanburg outplayed us,” Carroll said. “The best team won today. They were the dominant team in the second half.
“We had too many three-and-outs. They have a lot of weapons.”
Despite the loss, the Cougars completed the best four-year run in the school’s football history, including a No. 1 state ranking for two weeks in the regular season.
Though disappointed at falling short of the state title, Andrews said, he was amazed at the Cougars’ four-year run. “It’ll always be a source of pride for us,” he said.
Senior defensive player Luc Greene said the Cougars “had a great season and just came up short.”
Carroll said the Cougars this year had a 12-win season to remember.
“I want to thank the fans for their support,” he said.
After the Christmas break, Carroll said, it’s back to work.
“We’ll try to help our seniors find a school and begin preparations for next season,” said Carroll. “We have a good many seniors, so there will be a lot of positions open.”