By Chris Metcalf
GREIGSVILLE – There are several reasons why the York/Pavilion football program is heading to the Section V finals on Friday night.
Three of those reasons all play linebacker.
Senior Brennan Royce, junior Liam Ezard, and sophomore Tyler Brady have been wreaking havoc throughout the fall football season, helping the top-seeded Golden Knights (8-1) earn a berth in the Class D finals Friday night at 7 p.m. against No. 3 Canisteo-Greenwood (7-2) at SUNY Brockport.
York/Pavilion will be seeking their first sectional football title since 1990.
The Golden Knights’ defense has been steady all season with the exception of their one loss, a 40-6 setback in Week Two to O-A/E.
If you take away that one game, Y/P’s defense is allowing just 13 points a game.
On defense, it all starts with Brady, Royce and Ezard.
“In general, I think our linebackers are so special for us because they really are all complete football players,” Y/P head coach Kurt Schneider said. “They aren’t just run stuffers, they are ball hawks in pass coverage, and can even jump up and play some D line for us when needed.”
Royce is a punishing 5-foot-11, 225-pound inside backer, who has posted 58 tackles with two INTs, a pick six and a forced fumble.
“I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but the first time I saw Brennan Royce I knew this kid was going to be a beast of a middle backer for us someday,” coach Schneider said. “He is the heartbeat of the D and plays with that old-school dog mentality. His nickname is Thumper and for good reason if you ever watched him play.”
Ezard, listed at 5-10, 170 pounds, has made some momentum-changing plays this fall on defense and has produced 53 tackles with one sack, two QB pressures and one interception.
“Liam is our Swiss Army knife, his versatility really makes him a tremendous asset to the team,” coach Schneider said. “He has lined up at all three levels on the defense this year and everywhere he plays he just seems to make plays.”
Only a sophomore, Brady, a six-foot, 200-pounder leads the team with 78 tackles, three INTs and two sacks.
“Ryan is a stone-cold baller in between the lines,” coach Schneider said. “When we need a big play to spark us on defense, I know that Ryan is a good bet to be that guy who steps up and makes it for us, he has been doing it all year long.”
All three players compete on both sides of the ball too.
Brady leads the team with 25 catches for 223 yards while Royce is the team’s top offensive lineman. Ezard is a playmaker on offense and special teams.
Defensive coordinator Cody DuBiel, a 2016 YCS graduate who played QB and safety for the Golden Knights, loves watching his boys play defense.
“Brennan, Ryan, and Liam have been dogs for us this season on the defensive side of the ball,” coach DuBiel said. “The way these three guys communicate and compliment each other on the field makes it very fun to watch. Big hits, turnovers, and even a few defensive scores has shown the linebacking cores playmaking ability.”
DuBiel says his team’s high defensive IQ has played a crucial factor this season.
“We have a lot of defensive calls/adjustments each week, which can make it difficult, but these guys enjoy the challenge,” DuBiel said. “Brady, Ezard, and Royce are the most coachable kids I’ve worked with. Each week they are looking to learn, improve, and compete which is the reason why they are the glue to our defense.”
He also calls the terrific trio high-character leaders, on and off the field.
“While each one of these guys are great football players, they are even better young men and I’ve had a blast working with them this year,” DuBiel added.
With Friday’s sectional finals game being the most anticipated football contest York has played since the early 2000s, Coach Schneider is extremely thankful for the overwhelming support his boys are receiving from both communities.
“The community has been so great, there is a tremendous amount of excitement and buzz around the squad for our boys,” coach Schneider said. “It’s really awesome to see all the well wishes and the outpouring of support from everyone. Thank you all so much. We know it’s going to take our best effort, but we really want to keep this thing going as long as we can. KPO!”
Photos by Doug McFarland and Lindsey Meys