It's what every athlete sets his or her sights on at the beginning of each season — the playoffs.
The goals are set back in the summer during workouts, sometimes earlier. For the 23 high school football teams that make up the York-Adams League, the playoffs are the ultimate dream.
Now, after 10 weeks of compelling games, surprising upsets, thrilling victories and crushing defeats, nine of those teams are turning their playoff dreams into reality.
The final District 3 power ratings were released late Saturday night, making it official as to which teams keep their district title hopes alive and which teams had their seasons ended after just 10 games.
In the Y-A League, those teams are York Catholic, Hanover, Biglerville, Northeastern, York Suburban, Spring Grove, Dallastown, Red Lion and South Western. The nine teams this year matches last year's total, although the league saw more success with the bigger schools and less with the smaller schools. The Y-A League added one team to both the Class AAA and Class AAAA bracket this year compared to last year, going from two teams to three. However, with that means that the smaller schools didn't fare as well this year. Last year, teams from the Y-A League made up half of the four-team Class A field, while only one made it this year. In Class AA, the league dipped from three teams in 2014 to just two in 2015.
Class A: In Class A, York Catholic made it a third consecutive trip to the postseason, finishing 5-5 on the season. The Fighting Irish's playoff lives came down to the final day of the season, as they entered the week as the No. 4 team in the power ratings. A loss could've knocked York Catholic out and moved Delone Catholic into the playoffs. But a Squires loss and a Fighting Irish victory saw York Catholic move up to No. 3. The Fighting Irish will now face No. 2 Steelton-Highspire on the road in the semifinals, while avoiding powerhouse Camp Hill at least until the championship game.
Class AA: In Class AA, there is some real intrigue for fans of the Y-A League. Both Hanover and Biglerville qualified for the playoffs and will square off in the No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 match up. That ensures that at least one Y-A League school will advance to the second week of the playoffs and also brings a chance for revenge into the game. The Canners knocked off the Nighthawks in Week 9, ending Hanover's perfect season and making it so the two sides shared the Division III crown. That game was played at Biglerville, while this one will take place at Hanover, the perfect chance for the Nighthawks to exact revenge on the Canners.
Class AAA: This is where the Y-A League has its highest-seeded team in Northeastern. However, it's a tough draw for the No. 2 Bobcats, who went 8-2 and now host No. 15 Northern Lebanon. The Vikings are also 8-2 on the year, but they haven't actually lost a game on the field. Their only two losses came by way of forfeit because of an ineligible player. The games were forfeited a few weeks after they had already been won by NL. The other two teams to make it were Division II champion York Suburban and Spring Grove. The Trojans made it in as the No. 9 seed and will have to travel north on Route 74 to take on Northern York. As for the Rockets, a big Week 10 win over South Western moved them from No. 17 in the power ratings to No. 14. That means a date with 8-2 Manheim Central on Friday night on the road.
Class AAAA: Finally, in Class AAAA, Dallastown, Red Lion and the Mustangs all qualified for the postseason. Only the Wildcats will host a match up, as they welcome Central Dauphin East in the No. 7 vs. No. 10 showdown. The Lions, courtesy of thumping Dallastown in Week 10, shot up to the 11th seed. Unfortunately, that means a game on the road against No. 5 Cumberland Valley, a constant fixture in the AAAA playoffs. Lastly, at No. 12 is South Western, a team that had a shot to share the Division I title with the Wildcats, but a final-week defeat cost it that opportunity. The loss also cost the Mustangs some valuable positioning in the AAAA playoffs, slipping down to No. 12. That means, South Western will pack its bags, board the bus and head to Hempfield to take on the No. 5 Black Knights (8-2).
Traditionally, Y-A League teams don't fair too well making deep runs in the District 3 playoffs in AAA and AAAA tournaments, while district hardware is just as rare in the lower classes.
But, every year brings new hope to changing that and as long as you make the playoffs, you have a shot.
The next few weeks are what high school sports are all about.
There's not a doubt in my mind that these playoffs will live up to the hype.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker