Anderson Novalin will never take the opportunity to play high school football for granted.
Particularly not after the events of this past spring and summer, when the York City School Board considered cutting all extra-curricular activities to help close a $14 million budget deficit.
The board eventually did eliminate some sports, but it spared others, including football.
"I was definitely worried when it seemed like they were going to cut football" Novalin said. "I wanted to finish my senior year strong, and I would have had some (college) recruiters coming. If they cut football, I don't know what I would have done. I'm here every day (at practice), and I play like every day is my last day."
The 6-foot, 268-pound Novalin is a starter on the offensive and defensive lines for York High, which will take on Dallastown at 7 p.m. Friday on Homecoming Night at Small Athletic Field.
Both teams are 1-0 in Division I of the York-Adams League. The Wildcats and Bearcats have something else in common: they each lost their first three games of the season.
"The intense practices have helped us since then (the 0-3 start)," Novalin said. "The guys are starting to realize if we play together as a team, we're strong. We feel more like a family now."
York High coach Shawn Heinold said his team can compete with any team in the division if it plays to its potential.
"We've played pretty well recently," Heinold said. "We have a lot of returning defensive players this year, and we mixed them with a couple of sophomores, and the defense has really stepped up this year."
Heinold said his team will need to keep the penalties and turnovers to a minimum if it expects to beat Dallastown.
"They're fundamentally sound. They're not going to beat themselves," Heinold said of the Wildcats. "We're going to have to play at that level."
Dallastown counts on the running of Rob Catchings (450 yards), the passing of Andrew Henry (537 yards) and receiving skills of Malik Lewis and Josh Chronister (30 combined catches).
York High's offense features Kelvin Nieves, the sixth-leading rusher in the league with 595 yards. James Way, who took over as York High's quarterback in the third game of the season, can burn defenses with his arm and his legs. Way has passed for 300 yards and rushed for 252 yards.
"James is improving on a daily basis," Heinold said. "He's really into the position. Kelvin comes to practice every day and works hard. He's come a long way. He had some issues coming into the program as a sophomore, but he's grown into a fine young man."
Way, Nieves, Novalin and the rest of Bearcats' squad, which numbers just 30 players, are aiming to bury the memory of the disappointing start with an unforgettable finish.
"The numbers hurt the most in practice because we aren't always getting looks against our starters," Heinold said. "We didn't get off to the start we were hoping for this year, but the selling point is this is a second season. We're 1-0, and we can still be county champions and still get in the (District 3) playoffs. That's our goal right now, finish strong."
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-5407.