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STROHECKER: York Suburban a cut above in Division II

PATRICK STROHECKER
YorkDispatch

Getting my first chance to watch York Suburban on Friday night, it was clear that it was the class of the York-Adams football league Division II.

In reality, this should've been clear all along. Seeing the Trojans fly up and down the field, you just knew that this was a team a cut above the rest of its rivals within the division.

Did it help that, in the biggest game of the season for both teams, the Eagles were without a sizeable portion of their team due to disciplinary reasons? Sure. But, I'd be hard pressed to believe that even a Dover squad at 100 percent would've had the makeup to keep up with the high-flying Suburban offense and ball-hawking defense. It was a game between two teams unbeaten in league play, with the winner being in the driver's seat to win the division title with just two weeks to play. However, there was only one real team worthy of being champions on Dick May Field on Friday night and, really, that answer has been in front of us all season long: the Trojans

Preseason expectations: Before the season began, I made my predictions on whom I thought would win the Division II title and my pick was Dover. Right behind it I had Suburban finishing second. Unfortunately, when I made that pick, the decision came down to which first-year coach would have a better inaugural season at the helm with his respective side — Wayne Snelbaker with the Eagles or Andy Loucks with the Trojans. I settled on Snelbaker and Dover because his reputation around the league of being a strong in-game coach spoke for itself. As for Loucks, there wasn't a ton to go on with him, as he was out of the league and high school football in 2014.

But, there's one thing that I completely underestimated when looking at Suburban and that was the plethora of talented seniors it possessed this season. I knew how lethal Thomas Merkle and Collin Mailman were as a QB-WR combo, but when you have a duo that strong, you tend to forget about the other pieces around them. Dajour Henderson is one of the top running backs in the league, while Brad Smith and Dustin Knaub aren't bad second and third options for Merkle to throw to.

Well, they were on full display on Friday night, with every single one of them making an impact on the game in some way. Mailman needed just four receptions to haul in 161 yards receiving and three touchdowns, while also coming down with an interception. Smith had a quiet game, making only two catches for 32 yards, but just his presence on the field makes it hard for teams to focus solely on Mailman. Henderson had 107 yards rushing on only nine carries, including a 72-yard touchdown run. Knaub forced a fumble and then recovered it for a 32-yard touchdown on defense for the Trojans. And Merkle, after only playing for about two and a half quarters, needs only 225 yards to become the county's all-time passing leader, a record that he realistically could've broken had he stayed in and kept putting up the numbers he was against the depleted Eagles defense.

Ending a drought: It's been more than 30 years since Suburban won a Y-A League title outright. 33 years (1982) to be exact. With just two more wins, the Trojans will end that drought.

And it wouldn't even come as a surprise. This is a team that, realistically, should've won the division. With the talented senior class that only has a few games left in its high school career, it honestly would've been a waste had they not gone out on top.

"I think we have a lot of good upperclassmen," Loucks said following Friday's win. "The senior class has played together a long time, so, yeah, we expected to be good this year."

Suburban has just two games to go to complete an undefeated league schedule and probably won't see much of a challenge in either one. The Trojans travel to Gettysburg Friday night and then end the year hosting Eastern York on Nov. 6. The combined records of those two teams is 4-12 overall and 1-8 in Division II. Nothing in sports is a sure lock, but Suburban winning its final two games to clinch a division title is as close to definite as you can get.

But, realistically, if the Trojans play like they did against Dover the rest of the regular season, no team can compete with them.

You might be able to teach talent, but you can't teach experience. And this experienced Suburban squad knew the job it had to accomplish going into the year and is now just two games away from fulfilling it.

District 3 outlook

For the duration of the regular season, I'll post an updated look at how Y-A League teams are fairing in the District 3 power ratings. Here's how things are shaking out after Week 8:

Class A (Four-team field): No. 3 - York Catholic; No. 5 - Delone Catholic; No. 9 - Fairfield

Class AA (Eight-team field): No. 3 - Hanover; No. 7 Biglerville; No. 11 - Bermudian Springs; No. 14 - Littlestown

Class AAA (16-team field): No. 3 - Northeastern; No. 12 - York Suburban; No. 14 - Spring Grove; No. 21 - Dover; No. 26 - Susquehannock; No. 27 - West York; No. 30 - Kennard-Dale; No. 32 - Eastern York; No. 35 - New Oxford; No. 36 - Gettysburg

Class AAAA (16-team field): No. 7 - Dallastown; No. 9 - South Western; No. 13 - Red Lion; No. 21 - Central York; No. 26 - York Tech; No. 27 - York High

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker