East Xtra: University Prep falls in state playoffs

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Last year, University Prep's football season ended at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona when the Wildcats dropped a 33-32 contest to State College in the 2011 PIAA Class AAA playoffs.

But, unlike the previous campaign, this year's University Prep team won two state playoff games leading up to Saturday's 41-14 loss to Selinsgrove (10-3) -- the champions of District 4.

Senior quarterback Akil Young had been brilliant in the final two victories of his career at UPrep, throwing for 813 yards and 11 touchdowns within that short span.

That trend took a turn for the worse against the Seals as he threw a career-high seven interceptions with just one touchdown pass, a 28-yarder to junior Clay Moorefield.

Though Young admitted that he hadn't played his best game, he along with other Wildcats players noted that the snowy, cold, late-November weather didn't help their chances.

"The ball didn't leave my hand the way it usually does," Young said. "I had a lot of balls sail on me. [The cold and snow] made the ball hard and wet.

"It became very hard to handle and equally tough to make the throws that I needed to make."

It was quite a change from his previous two state playoff performances where he had 813 yards to go along with 11 touchdowns during games in which his Wildcats (7-4) competed in the Districts 5-6-8-9 subregional rounds.

In addition to UPrep not being able to produce offensively, the Seals piled up 325 of their 326 yards of total offense on the ground.

"They were relentless with their scheme," senior linebacker Myles Catlin said. "We were clearly affected by the cold weather, which added to how those hits felt. But you have to give them credit because they kept [the hits] coming."

Despite being the City League's runner-up, Catlin said the effort of the team's underclassmen made his senior season one to remember.

"After the game I was trying to get some of our younger guys to understand that their effort this year meant a lot to us seniors," said Catlin, an emotional leader all season for the Wildcats, said. "[Their effort means] a whole lot. It kind of made our senior season as great as it was. I just wanted them all to know that."

Junior receiver Marcus Johnson, who was responsible for the other UPrep score on a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown, had a contrasting view.

"Apparently we [underclassmen] had done more than we thought," he said. "We just did the best we could because we knew the seniors wanted to go all the way. They wanted to be state champions."

Young referenced the team's ability to band together after their best lineman, Ne'Ondre Harbour, had been an innocent bystander in a Garfield shooting that claimed his life on Oct. 14.

Just 16 years old, Harbour was shot in the torso. He left behind a grieving family, University Prep student body and football teammates who had to contend with the same Perry team -- the following Friday night -- that would later on claim a 9-6 overtime victory in the City League title game on Nov 4.

Yet, Young said that the team refused to rule themselves out and claimed that they had bigger purpose to fulfill than football.

"I honestly couldn't picture us getting any closer than what we had already been," Young said. "But we, indeed, got closer. Much closer.

"That's why we can't hang our heads too low about what we put out there on the field. We came together and gave it our all for Ne'Ondre ... to celebrate his life and what he meant to everyone who knew him." hsfootball


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