When Eastern York's Alex Cooley was asked at York-Adams League Football Media Day in August what goal, or goals, he had for the upcoming season, Cooley replied: "I just want us to do better as a team."
The Golden Knights' star running back began the season with an excellent chance to become the league's all-time leading rusher and career touchdowns leader, but didn't mention either one of those benchmarks.
Cooley's response didn't surprise Eastern coach Richard Brubaker.
"He ran for all those yards, but he was a team player," Brubaker said following the season.
Cooley may not have talked about individual honors, but he gained a prestigious one: York-Adams Division III Football Player of the Year.
The Division I coaches selected Central York's Marquis Fells as Player of the Year. The Division II coaches picked West York's Zack Smith and Northeastern's Daniel Adams as Co-Players of the Year.
Cooley: Brubaker had the privilege of watching Cooley for the past four seasons -- the last two as the Golden Knights' head coach.
"He missed just one game to attend his brother's graduation from Parris Island (the Marine Corps Training Program in South Carolina)," Brubaker said. "I'm pretty sure I'll never coach an Alex Cooley again."
Cooley carried the ball just four times for 12 yards in his first season -- hardly an omen to what turned out to be an unforgettable career. Following the modest debut, Cooley put together three straight sparkling seasons to close his career with 6,015 rushing yards and 80 touchdowns, both York-Adams League records.
Cooley also broke the PIAA and District 3 records for rushing yards in a game with 500 against Hanover this season and set the York-Adams mark for rushing yards in a season with 2,845 in 2012. He closed his career with another remarkable performance: 10 touchdowns and 492 rushing yards against York Tech.
The 5-foot, 8-inch, 190-pound senior possessed the power to run over defenders, the moves to get around them and the speed to run away from them. Cooley finished third in the 100-meter dash at last spring's York-Adams Track and Field Meet with a time of 11.10 seconds. And, oh yes, he's also an outstanding wrestler who finished third in the District 3-AA Tournament and fifth at the PIAA State Tournament last year in the 182-pound weight class.
Fells: Central head coach Brad Livingston, who just completed his 43rd season on the sideline, paid Fells the ultimate compliment.
"He might just be the best football player I've ever coached," Livingston said. "The fire and passion in Marquis is uncommon."
Fells' small stature (5-9, 145) didn't prevent him from compiling some big numbers. He averaged 6.2 yards a carry (124 carries for 773 yards) and 22.8 yards a reception (27 catches for 615 yards). He scored 132 points and compiled 210 yards on kickoff returns, two of which went for touchdowns. On defense, the senior recorded 76 tackles and two sacks and intercepted two passes.
"This award isn't just for me, it's for all of them," Fells said, gesturing to his teammates in the locker room. "Corey (Hartz) runs the offense for us, and the receivers block downfield for me. And, my O-line, every time I gain yards, it's not just my yards, it's their yards, too."
Smith: Smith's myriad of contributions made him the epitome of a Player of the Year in the eyes of his head coach.
"Zack did everything," West York's Ron Miller said. "He ran the ball, caught passes, punted, returned punts, returned kickoffs and caught passes."
Smith, whose team will play Bishop McDevitt in the District 3-AAA title game on Friday night, has a league-high 60 receptions for 1,085 yards (18.1 average). The senior is averaging 5.9 yards a carry, and he's returned eight kickoffs for 268 yards and 19 punts for 135 yards. In the defensive secondary, Smith has made 30 tackles and intercepted four passes.
"Co-Player of the Year was a surprise, but I'm not worried about all that stuff," Smith said. "All I want to do is win. I couldn't have done what I did without the other guys. The line gave (QB) Brandon (Kinneman) a chance to throw, Brandon put the ball where it needed to be, and the running backs ran hard for us."
Adams: Adams rushed for 6.1 yards a carry even though he was the focus of every opposing defense.
"No Division II team kept him under 100 yards, including two games against West York," Northeastern head coach Brendan Brown said. "Every team knew stopping Daniel was a must to beat us, yet they didn't do it."
Adams carried the ball just 22 times last year, although he finished with an impressive 9.1 yards a carry. This past season, Adams became the go-to guy, carrying the ball 242 times for 1,475 yards. He scored 18 touchdowns.
"Daniel improved more in a one-year period than any player I coached," Brown said.
Coaches: Spring Grove head coach Russ Stoner, who led the Rockets to a share of the Division I title with Central York, was selected Division I Coach of the Year. The Rockets finished 8-4 overall and earned a District 3-AAA playoff win after suffering through a 1-9 campaign in 2011 in Stoner's first season as head coach.
West York's Miller's earned the honor in Division II after directing the Bulldogs to their sixth-straight division title and a perfect 10-0 regular season. The Bulldogs will carry a 13-0 record into Friday's District 3-AAA title game.
Bermudian Springs' Jon DeFoe gained the Coach of the Year award in Division III. DeFoe's team won the division crown for the second straight year and also completed the regular season undefeated at 10-0. The Eagles advanced to the District 3-AA title game and finished 12-1 overall.
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org.