York Catholic expects few changes under new coach: 2022 Football Preview
It’s not often that an 11-1 football team loses its head coach, but that’s the reality that York Catholic faced this offseason.
Their former head coach, Eric Depew, stepped down unexpectedly toward the end of June. But for the York Catholic football team, expectations haven’t changed even if the head coach has.
Brad Hayek, who has been on the team's staff since 2005, will inherit a program that has been in the mix for the Division III crown in the York-Adams League almost every year over the past decade. The Irish won four D-III titles under Depew and made the PIAA state playoffs three times. York Catholic’s one-loss season included a 35-8 win over Upper Dauphin in the District 3 Class 2-A title game.
Hayek isn't looking to fill small shoes. Depew left with an 83-40 overall record. Offensive coordinator Matt Sentz, who was also considered as a replacement, said that his team has to put in the time, on and off the field.
“The division is wide open. It’s going to come down to the team that can fight to the end. Get stronger and avoid injuries. Build on what they do well in the season,” Sentz said.
Sentz said they would use games against nonconference teams to see how the Irish stack up in-state.
Senior players for the Irish are looking to leave their mark, for not just themselves but those who come after them.
“Winning championships and districts would be huge. We want to leave behind something that we can teach the younger guys so that they can continue what we did,” said quarterback Levan McFadden.
McFadden, now a senior, has been a linchpin for the program over the past few seasons as the starting quarterback and one of its most important returners. He was named to the Pennsylvania Football Writers Class 2-A All-State Team as an offensive athlete.
The 6-foot, 175-pound junior was also named a York-Adams Division III First-Team All-Star as a safety and was a second-team selection as a quarterback.
As York Catholic’s signal caller, McFadden was 57 for 116 passing (49%) for 979 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He averaged 17.2 yards per completion.
He was also impressive when using his legs: the star athlete racked up 682 rushing yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He scored a team-best 15 rushing TDs.
Catholic will need another strong season from him on both sides of the ball if they want to continue their success from a season ago. He had 20 tackles and three interceptions defensively.
The Irish hadn’t won a district title since 2018 and were happy to end the streak on their way to an 11-0 start. Their season ended in a loss in the PIAA Class 2-A first-round playoffs to West Catholic, 24-7.
“Winning a state game would be nice. Our goal is to advance to get into states. Everyone wants a state championship, of course. Only a very few get to do that in PA,” said senior receiver Quinn Brennan.
Brennan said he believes the team has progressed mentally as well as physically.
The players know that people are wondering what the team will look like without the guy who has been at the helm over the previous 10 seasons.
“We can’t get discouraged by our coach leaving. Hopefully, we can stay healthy and not be affected by what’s going on in the background,” McFadden said.
Hayek made it clear when he was first hired that he expected no effect on the status quo of the program.
“I think that everything is set in place the way we want it and the way we planned it,” he said. “The biggest change will just be that it’s a different person in charge. All of the staff is coming back, so there will be no big changes.”
Following is a capsule look at the Irish:
- Team: York Catholic Fighting Irish
- Coach: Brad Hayek, first season
- 2021 record: 11-1 overall, 6- in York-Adams League Division III.
- Keys losses: (Division III All-Stars in bold) Nick Casagrande (OL/DL), Andrew Adams (RB/SS), Danny Sterling (WR/DB), Danny Devitt (WR/DB), Nick Andrasi (K/P), Ryan Kerchner (FB/DE)
- Key returns: (Division III All-Stars in bold) Levan McFadden (QB), reigning York-Adams Division III Defensive Player of the Year Nick Creisher, Quinn Brennan (WR)
- 2022 schedule (Division III games in bold): Aug. 26 at Lancaster Catholic, 7 p.m.; Sept, 2 vs. Camp Hill, 7 p.m.; Sept 9 at York Suburban, 7 p.m.; Sept. 16 at Bermudian Springs, 7 p.m.; Sept. 24 at York Tech, 1 p.m.; Sept. 30 vs. Delone Catholic, 7 p.m.; Oct. 7 vs. Hanover, 7 p.m.; Oct. 14 at Littlestown, 7 p.m.; Oct. 21 vs. Fairfield, 7 p.m.; Oct. 28 at Biglerville, 7 p.m.