Central's football players gathered with their coaches in the locker room for the final time this season on Friday night.

The Panthers' highly successful season, which included a York-Adams Division I title, came to an end with a 41-24 loss to Exeter Township in the opening round of the District 3 Class AAAA playoffs.

The Berks County team, which entered the playoffs as the No. 12-seed stunned the No. five-seeded Panthers by scoring 24 unanswered points after falling behind, 17-14.

"We challenged them (the players) tonight," Exeter Township head coach Matt Bauer said. "The last two years, we were just happy to be here. We wanted to make a statement, and I think we did that tonight."

The Eagles seized the momentum by capitalizing on two big plays - one at the end of the second quarter and the other at the beginning of the third quarter.

Exeter drove 84 yards in just 34.3 seconds to take the lead for good with a touchdown just before halftime. Chase Yocum's 24-yard TD strike to Evan Lysczek came with only 1.2 seconds on the clock.

"I think it (the go-ahead touchdown pass) was huge," Central head coach Brad Livingston said. "For them to go the distance, that had to be a big boost for them, and it didn't help us at all."

Exeter Township then kicked off to start the third quarter, but Central failed to cover the short kick, and Exeter's Drew Bennett recovered.

The Eagles didn't score following Bennett's recovery, but they enjoyed field position the whole third quarter. Central did not cross midfield until midway through the fourth quarter.

"Nobody fielded it (the kickoff), and I don't know why," Livingston said. "We made a big error there and it put us in a bind the whole third quarter It seemed like we were playing on our end of the field the whole third quarter."

Central, which was unable to get its running game going (64 rushing yards for the night) finally broke through for a second-half touchdown when quarterback Dylan Hose hooked up with wide receiver Zane Knaub on a 34-yard TD strike with 3:42 left in the game.

Hose, playing his last game for the Panthers, completed 16 of 32 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns. Knaub caught two of the TD passes (55 and 34 yards) and Robert Romey grabbed the other touchdown toss (six yards). Knaub, a senior, snared five passes for 122 yards.

"We had a tough time moving the ball all night," Hose said. "They did a good job of stopping the run. We were able to pass on them a little bit, but we just couldn't get it done.

The defeat in districts stung, but Hose will look back fondly on the 2013 season.

"We went undefeated in the division, we were YAIAA Division I champions. Great memories, great guys. I'll love these guys for the rest of their lives."

The veteran Livingston, who earned his 200th career victory this season, is proud of what his team accomplished during its 8-3 season.

"For this team to do what it did this year, they went on a seven-game winning streak. They lost three games, but if I heard right, all three of those teams (Exeter, Cumberland Valley and Hempfield) are still playing next week. So, we had one heck of a season."