Walking into the York Newspaper Co. offices on Monday morning, the buzz in the air was noticeable.
I could sense the anticipation of everyone in the building, myself included.
Monday was York-Adams League Football Media Day, the unofficial beginning of the high school football season. It resembles Super Bowl Media Day, with players and coaches representing the 23 teams that make up the York-Adams League. The only difference being that instead of this signaling the end of the season, this was a chance to talk about — and look toward — the beginning.
Every single team in attendance, regardless of where it finished in the standings the previous year, spoke of optimism and excitement, a chance to put the long, boring days of summer in the past and kick off a new season that would hopefully lead to a division, district and possibly even state titles.
Monday was the chance for all of the players and coaches to talk about those dreams. This upcoming Monday is when they can put on pads and start working toward them.
Of course, while every team sets out at the beginning of the season to be that one team that wins its final game of the season and hoists a division title over its head, realistically, there are only a few teams that can have that goal in mind. Reigning division champs Central York (I), Dover (II) and Littlestown (III) obviously enter the season with the biggest targets on their backs. For them, the road to becoming champions was hard, but the path to defending it will be even tougher. They are the three teams that set the standard for what it takes to be division champions and now have every other team in the league striving to knock them off their throne.
"It's a new feeling, but what happened last year happened last year," Dover senior Levi Murphy said. "We're starting fresh. We're focusing on Game 1 against Shippensburg and we're going to play the same physical way all the time."
While every team is gunning for Central York, Dover and Littlestown, it's the teams that finished right behind them in the standings that are going to force them to constantly be on their game. Dallastown, West York, Bermudian Springs and York Catholic were all in contention to win their respective divisions, ultimately coming up just short. That feeling of being so close, but coming away empty-handed, has left a sour taste in their mouths and made them even more ready to get 2014 started.
"We were two seconds away from a third-straight undefeated season," Bermudian Springs head coach Jon DeFoe said. "So, (we) need to stay hungry and stay focused on the details and just continue on doing the things that we've been doing."
Looking to improve: For the other teams, a championship might be what they hope for, but in reality, is a long shot. Instead, those teams look to improve on aspects of the game that they've been working on all offseason, hoping that those improvements on the field will lead to better records in the standings. Teams such as South Western, Northeastern, Kennard-Dale, Hanover and Biglerville can only really go up from last season.
Kennard-Dale made the necessary changes in personnel in the hopes that 2014 doesn't reflect 2013. Now it's up to the players to buy into what new Head Coach Patrick Weider is selling them.
"I feel like this team will have a lot of versatility to get through adversity better than last year's team," Weider said. "When bad plays happen, I think we'll be able to move on from them."
And that is essentially what every team needs to do when a new season begins: move on. For teams that struggled to get any momentum going last year, it's a fresh start to show that the hard work in the offseason paid off. And for the teams who are sitting on top of the mountain, it's just as important for them to prove that last year wasn't a fluke.
So get ready. The dog days of summer are finally behind us and it's time to strap on the pads, because the high school football season is nearly upon us.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.