Dover Eagles eager to be back in Division II after rough seasons in Division I: 2022 Football Preview

Dante Green
York Dispatch

It’s hard to compete when you don’t have the same resources as your opponents, as Dover  High's football team found during two years in York-Adams Division I.

The Eagles' record was 1-5 in 2020-2021, and things got even worse last season when they finished 1-9 overall and 0-7 in the division. Now, Dover is making the move back to Division II, where they last played in 2019-20 with a 3-7 overall record but 3-3 in the division. The last time they had a winning record  came in the 2017-18 season when they were 6-4 overall and 5-1 in Division II.

They seem to have had better luck at winning against teams in the division that matches their attendance numbers. The departure of Gettysburg, which made the switch this year back to the Mid-Penn Conference, gave the Eagles the chance to move down to Division II.

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Players acknowledge that nothing is guaranteed and Division II is tough, but they are excited to be back down, as it gives them more of a chance to win games.

“Gives us a better opportunity to show what we are capable of when we aren’t being shadowed by some Division I teams,” said Dover senior Josiah Heffelfinger.

Dover's Josiah Heffelfinger (53) at Media Day for the local high school football teams in York on August 2, 2022.

At a disadvantage: The Eagles found themselves outmatched by teams they viewed as having a competitive advantage and the ability to play more players.

“We were in Division I; we were going in to play the Central Yorks and York Highs. They have more players and resources. We kind of knew what was going to happen, even though we still played our hardest,” said senior safety Gavin Mullins.

Head coach Wayne Snelbaker said he agrees the move back to Division II has helped relieve some pressure on his players.

Dover's safety, Gavin Mullins (26) at Media Day for the local high school football teams in York on August 2, 2022.

“We were Division I the last two years, and it was tough,” he said. “Now we are looking forward to competing at a level where we feel we have a better chance of winning games. There were some games last year — we could have played perfect games and we just didn’t have the horses to run with that.”

Team bonding: Snelbaker said playing Division I teams made his players realize how much they needed each other.

He said he believes the tough competition brought his team closer together.

“The whole team has grown together and they can tell each other how to get better without any hard feelings. They have grown up a lot,” said Snelbaker, who lost six starters.

Players have said they've become closer. They are hoping to be able to communicate better and put everyone in the proper position to succeed.

“We have to keep doing what we have been doing throughout the summer: Make sure we all know our assignments, play together as a team instead of falling apart," Heffelfinger said.

Following is a capsule look at the Eagles: 

Team: Dover Eagles

Coach: Wayne Snelbaker

2021 record: 1-9 overall, 0-7 in York-Adams League Division I

Key losses (Division I All-Stars in bold): Drake Kosky (RB/FS), Caden Lang (OL), Drew Snelbaker (OC/DT), Jordan Stewart (WR), Gavin Semple (TE), Tyler Cutright (OLB), Kevin McGurn (DB), Adam Ross (T/DE),

Key returners (Division I All-Stars in bold): Josiah Heffelfinger (DL/OL), Domynic Pifer (OG/DE), Thomas Smyser (WR/C), Braydon Zirkle (TE/LB), Gavin Mullins (RB/S/DB), Lucas Runk (FB/LB), Landon Shue (WR/C), Aric Campbell (QB), Ben Reed (OL), Julian Markel (RB), Zach Townsend (S), Gavin Hake (DE).

Newcomers to watch: Drew Jones (MLB,FB), Reese Husson (OLB, WR)

Schedule (Division II games in bold): Aug. 26 at Northeastern; Sept. 2 vs. South Western; Sept. 9 vs. Northern York; Sept. 16 vs New Oxford; Sept. 23 at Susquehannock; Sept. 30 at York Suburban; Oct. 7 vs. Eastern York; Oct. 14 vs Dallastown; Oct. 21 at Kennard-Dale; Oct. 28 at West York.