York High fighting to put name among elites: 2022 football preview

Dante Green
York Dispatch

Russ Stoner sits on a beach outlining the season outlook for his team over video.

It’s one last vacation before the season starts. One last time to relax before the grind of chasing another district title. Stoner is soaking it up in the sun in early August, a few weeks from season time. 

“Sometimes you think is it time to step aside? Then the excitement of the upcoming season rolls around and you get those little jitters, and it’s time to get the rock rolling,” Stoner said. 

Stoner said his York High Bearcats have plenty of competition in Division I, and at some point, he knows his team has to beat Central York. Central York lost only one game all of last year and dominated Division I. York High is hoping to take the crown from them this year. 

York High's Jaheim White runs the ball to gain some yardage during YAIAA Division I championship football action at Central York High School in Springettsbury Township, Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. Central York would win the game 60-14. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York High has been one of the most successful programs in the York-Adams league since Stoner became the head coach back in 2016. They have had five straight playoff appearances and are coming off a 7-3 season. They even won back-to-back Division I titles in 2017 and 2018. But Central York has stood in their way the last three years, including a 60-14 beating in the 2021 Division I championship.

It won’t be easy for a program that lost eight players who were named YAIAA Division I all-stars last season, but the team does have eight starting returning players on offense and seven on defense.

Joden Nelson is a huge loss on the offensive line. He was a Pennsylvania all-star who played in this year's Big-33 game. Returning Mike McMonigle is one of the best tackles in the division and will protect York High's quarterback.

York High offensive lineman Michael McMonigle has received a football offer from Marshall.

Still, the team averaged 44 points per game last season. It led the entire league last year.

The offense did lose both of its starting receivers but still has West Virginia commit running back Jahiem White. The workhorse back rushed for 2,128 yards and 30 touchdowns last season. He's 298 yards away from breaking York High’s all-time rushing record. He's perhaps the best player in the league.

The Bearcats also have arguably the best quarterback in the division after the graduation of Beau Pribula from Central York. Sam Stoner, son of the head coach, threw a little under 2,000 yards last season, with 23 touchdowns to only five interceptions. The senior has received multiple college offers and is out to push his game to another level before he enters the next stage of his career. 

Sam Stoner said his No. 1 goal is to win. He wants to win districts and make the playoffs.

York High head coach Russ Stoner addresses the team after the first day of football practice at Small Field Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. Bill Kalina photo

“We haven’t won anything and we are really hoping for that. The league is better and our schedule is tough so it won’t be easy,” the quarterback said.

Senior running back and linebacker Montress Jackson will never forget the feeling of his team losing in last year's last game against Central.

“The energy was down. We had some really tough losses last year. We knew we could play better than that. We want to win,” Jackson said. 

Jackson is a captain on the team and is expected to take on a larger role on offense. Russ Stoner also said the team has seen many positive things already from 5-10, 180-pound freshman linebacker Armani Bones. 

“He’s going to be a really good player,” the coach said. 

The Bearcats’ defense allowed 30 points per game and struggled against top competition, surrendering 55 points to Governor Mifflin in the first week of the 2021 season and 50 to Wilson in the district quarterfinals, ending the season. 

Jackson said team chemistry is as strong as ever going into the season.

“Every day from start to end. It’s great being with a group of guys that can us win,” Jackson said. 

York High Montress Jackson, left, and Steven Washington run sprints during the first day of football practice at Small Field Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. York High kicks off the season with a home game against Governor Mifflin Aug. 27. Bill Kalina photo

Here's a capsule of the team:

Team: York High Bearcats

Head coach: Russ Stoner, seventh season

2021 record: 7-3 overall, 5-1 in York-Adams League Division I.

Key losses (Division I All-Stars in bold): Joden Nelson (OL/DL), JaNas Simms (WR), JaQuez Simmons (WR/DB)Ajani Cheshire (WR/DB), Steven Roland-Washington (DL/OL), Terrence Price (LB), NiJir Greer (DE), JaQuan Jones (DE)

Key returnees (Division I All-Stars in bold): Jahiem White (RB), Sam Stoner (QB), Montress Jackson (RB/LB), Mike McMonigle (OT), JaQuan Franklin (G/DT), Jalen Walker (G/DT), Azhair Upson (DT)

Schedule (Division I games in bold): Aug. 27 at Woodlawn Hills in the Pittsburgh Peach Classic Championship; Sept. 2 at Hempfield; Sept. 9 vs. Carlisle; Sept. 16 at Northeastern; Sept. 23 vs Red Lion; Oct. 15 vs Spring Grove; Oct. 21 vs South Western; Oct. 28 vs Central York.