Devon Fissel was in eighth grade when his older brother, Blaine, helped his team win the 2008 District 3-AAA football title.
Blaine Fissel caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from Alex George, rushed for 65 yards and recovered a fumble as West York defeated Mannheim Central, 15-7, to become the first York-Adams League team to capture a district AAA crown.
Devon, along with friends and family and thousands of other fans, watched Blaine and his teammates hoist the championship trophy following the historic victory in Hersheypark Stadium.
"That was awesome," Devon Fissel said during West York's practice on Tuesday afternoon. "Just seeing that game made me wonder if I would get there."
Fissel and his teammates are one victory away from playing in Hershey for the district crown. The Bulldogs (12-0) will take on Susquehanna Township (10-2) in a AAA semifinal game at 7 Friday night at West York. The winner will take on the winner of the Bishop McDevitt-Lancaster Catholic game for the title the following Friday.
Mention Susquehanna Township to West York head coach Ron Miller, and one word immediately comes to mind.
"Speed," Miller said. "Colby Grant, obviously, is our No. 1 concern. If we don't get to him before he gets going, we're going to be watching No. 7 running down the field a lot."
Grant, a 5-9, 180-pound senior running back/defensive back, is averaging an impressive 8.4 yards a carry (156 carries for 1,304 yards). He has 21 touchdowns.
"They do have some receivers who can go and get the ball. No. 12 (Jordan Banks) comes to mind immediately, but our No. 1 focus is to try and control Grant," Miller said. "I think we have a very good game plan to slow him down, but if we're not where we need to be, and he finds (an opening), it's a TD."
While the Indians definitely count on Grant, he's not their only weapon. Quarterback Jordan Baskerville has passed for 1,355 yards and 16 TDs.
West York will counter with its balanced running attack, the passing of Brandon Kinneman and the receiving of Zack Smith. Brock Snellbaker is the Bulldogs' leading rusher with 788 yards. Kinneman, James Johnson, Steve Wilson and Anthony Trone have combined for 1,456 yards. Kinneman, meanwhile, is the second-highest rated York-Adams passer with 1,516 yards, 19 TD passes and just five interceptions. Smith is the league leader in receptions with 60 for 1,085 yards (18.1 average).
The Bulldogs' hit their last two opponents, Northeastern and Spring Grove, with a barrage of 49 and 42 unanswered points, respectively. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs' defense shut down the Bobcats and Rockets, who both pushed West York during the regular season. West York is yielding just 10.3 points a game.
"We've amped it up a whole another notch in the playoffs," said Fissel, who starts at outside linebacker. "Everyone does his job. That's the key to any defense."
The Bulldogs will need to continue playing at a high level in order to fulfill their season-long goal of getting to Hershey.
"The staff did a great job the last two weeks preparing the kids," Miller said. "And the kids are playing with a sense of urgency. These are desperate times. You either win or you're turning your equipment in."
Miller hopes the West York's grass surface will slow down Susquehanna Township's speedsters.
"It's their run offense against our run-stop defense," Fissel said. "We'll see how it works."
If it does work out for the Bulldogs, Devon Fissel's brother will get a chance to see him play in Hersheypark Stadium.
"That was good stuff to see at that age," Devon Fissel said. "There's no better feeling I want than to get to that point (playing for a title in Hershey). He (Blaine) wants the same for us."
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org.