Winning a high school league championship used to be a huge deal.
It was something you could brag about for years and decades to come.
Somewhere along the line, however, that changed a little.
Now, it seems, a lot of players, coaches and fans look at the league regular season and tournaments as merely a stepping stone to the "real" season – the District 3 playoffs. Some have even referred to league tournaments as good "tune-ups" for the district playoffs.
The chase for power points — which determine which teams do and do not qualify for district action — have become the single most important factor when teams compile their schedules.
Class AAAA schools will generally avoid Class AA or Class A teams like the plague because there is little to gain. There are few power points at stake. And if a Class AAAA program loses to a strong Class AA or Class A team, it can deal a devastating blow to a team's chances of making the district playoffs.
As a result, every major conference in the district has generally aligned its divisions by size of school. Strength of program is no longer a significant factor, if a factor at all. Class AAAA schools play mostly Class AAAA schools, Class AAA schools take on mostly Class AAA schools, etc.
There are some exceptions, of course, but they are increasingly rare.
As a result, many longtime rivalries between neighboring schools have been lost, just because one of those schools happens to be a strong small-school program and the other school happens to be an average big-school program. The big school simply doesn't want to take the chance that it might lose the game and take a big hit in the precious power points. That could spell the difference between making districts or not.
The chase for district points has even led to the complete demise of some leagues. The old Blue Mountain League in the mid-1980s, for example, included every school in Adams County. It made for some great local rivalries and some big crowds.
Unfortunately, the teams ranged from small schools to big schools, which made it hard for some of the bigger schools to qualify for the district playoffs, especially in the most high-profile of all sports — football.
Not surprisingly, the BML soon became history and some spirited rivalries faded away. Next season, with the addition of Gettysburg, all of those Adams County schools will be members of the York-Adams League, but they will be spread out across several different divisions.
All of this is perfectly understandable, especially for the bigger schools. There is no doubt that the district playoffs — and especially the state playoffs — garner the most attention from fans and the media.
If you want to get noticed by the most people from across the state, you need to make long runs in the district and state playoffs. That's just the way it is. And everyone likes to get noticed.
But it's a shame that the chase for the district playoffs has taken a little away from the importance of winning a league championship.
Winning a league crown shouldn't just be considered a "tune-up" for district and state action.
It should be considered a major accomplishment in itself that will be remembered and cherished for years to come.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.