HEISER: A year of triumph, tragedy

Steve Heiser

A group of kids from northern York County captured the hearts and minds of folks from Delta to Lewisberry, and beyond, this past summer.

If there was one story that all of York County celebrated in 2015, it was the inspiring journey of a bunch of young ballplayers from Red Land, who slugged their way to the Little League World Series championship game in Williamsport.

Unfortunately, Red Land fell in the finals, but the local team did win the U.S. Championship — an unprecedented accomplishment for a York County team.

Red Land's Adam Cramer reacts as he comes off the field after he shut out Texas for five innings in the Little League World Series in August. Red Land won the U.S. Championship at the event.

For a few weeks, the Red Land boys provided us with a much-needed distraction from the troubles of day-to-day life. Instead, we could revel in the unbridled enthusiasm of young boys performing great deeds.

That's why it was the county's top sports story in 2015

Of course, all the sports news coming out of the county in 2015 wasn't so positive.

As always, it was a year of triumph, tragedy and controversy.

In short, 2015 was a year to remember — warts and all — in local sports.

With just a few days before the start of 2016, it's time to reflect on the year that was.

Here's a look back at one person's selections for the other top sports stories from the year.

2. Brad Livingston ousted: There's little doubt that Brad Livingston was the most high-profile head coach in York County high school athletics.

He successfully led the Central York football program for more than three decades, picking up more than 200 wins, and guided the boys' volleyball team for more than a decade, including a pair of state titles. His recent unexpected ouster from both positions, for reasons that have still not been publicly released, left a serious rift in the Central community.

3. Fatalities and serious illnesses: Unfortunately, the York area sports world wasn't spared from life's harsh realities.

Two drivers died on the local dirt tracks (Carnie Fryfogle at Susquehanna and Jim Campbell at Williams Grove) and two Red Lion football players (Stone Hill and Nicholas Mankin) died in a car crash. Two longtime and well-known high school coaches also passed away (West York's John Toggas and Dallastown's Royce Gerber).

In addition, at least three local high school athletes (Northeastern's Marcus Josey, Central York's Peter Falci and Dover's Maddie Hill) battled life's most heartless opponent — cancer.

4. Yorkers make national football news: A number of Yorkers made national football news.

York High graduate Bruce Arians was named the NFL Coach of the Year for his superb job with the Arizona Cardinals. Susquehannock grad Ron Wolf was deservedly inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his long NFL front-office career, most notably as the general manager of the Green Bay Packers. Dover grad John Kuhn was named All-Pro and earned a Pro Bowl berth for his excellence as a fullback with the Packers. Former Yorker Lincoln Kennedy was picked for the College Football Hall of Fame. And Ex-Red Lion quarterback Chad Kelly resurrected his troubled football career at Ole Miss, leading the Rebels to a 9-3 season and a Sugar Bowl berth.

Unfortunately, the news wasn't all good. Susquehannock grad Randy Edsall was fired as Maryland's head coach after the Terps struggled to start the 2015 season. And late in the year, the news broke in USA Today about Jon Witman's serious difficulties with life after football, including a near suicide attempt, serious injuries and bankruptcy. Witman is an Eastern York grad.

5. Summer Britcher reaches next level: 

Summer Britcher

Glen Rock's Summer Britcher emerged in 2014 when she made the U.S. Olympic women's luge team, finishing 15th at the Sochi Games in Russia.

In 2015, Britcher has reached the next level, earning her first-ever World Cup victories and earning several more podium finishes. She currently leads the World Cup luge standings in women's singles.

6.K-D's Day sets national record: Kennard-Dale's Morgan Day set the national high school lacrosse record for goals in a career with 469.

Day's march toward the milestone became an ongoing story during the Rams' standout 20-2-0 season. Day will continue her lacrosse career by playing at the NCAA Division I level for St. Francis University.

7. Another stellar season for York YMCA swimmers: The York YMCA, under the guidance of Michael Brooks, has firmly established itself as a national force in the pool.

That continued in 2015. Hali Flickinger, Courtney Harnish, Meghan Small, Emily Ilgenfritz and Kacey Oberlander are just some of the York Y swimmers who excelled in regional, national and even international competitions, and the list of standouts doesn't stop there.

8. York-Adams state champions: The Northeastern boys' volleyball program, led by Coach Matt Wilson, captured its third straight PIAA Class AA state championship.

The Bobcats, who have four state crowns in the last six years, look to have the talent to make it four straight this spring.

York Suburban's Carson Gross, meanwhile, claimed the PIAA Class AA state title in the 200 freestyle as a junior.

9. District 3 basketball excellence: The York-Adams League continued its recent run of District 3 basketball excellence, led by championships from York High (Class AAAA boys), York Catholic (Class AA girls) and Hilda Goodling Impact Academy (Class A boys).

It was an unprecedented 10th straight district crown for the Lady Irish, while York High earned a second straight title, and its third in the last five years. Hilda Goodling won its championship in its only year of existence. Unfortunately, the financially troubled York City school was closed shortly after the district final and did not compete in the state playoffs.

10. Corey Thurman's career with Revs comes to end: If there is one person who was the face of the York Revolution it was Corey Thurman.

The former major league pitcher made York his home and became the most accomplished player in franchise history with 66 victories in seven-plus seasons with the Revs. He thought he could still pitch, but the Revs thought otherwise and released him in late May.

Honorable mention

U.S. Women's Open: Yes, technically this event did not happen in York County, but the most prestigious tournament in women's golf at nearby Lancaster Country Club definitely grabbed the attention of the York golf community. There were dozens of county volunteers at the championship and hundreds, probably thousands, of York County fans in attendance.

PIAA expands sports classifications: Again, this is not just purely a York County story, but it's a story that will have a major impact on York County high schools. The PIAA made the controversial decision to expand the number of classes for its sports playoffs. Most notably, football and basketball, among others, will now have six classifications, instead of just four.

Capitals win title, leave town: The York Capitals captured their first-ever American Indoor Football championship in 2015 in their third year in existence. A few months later, however, the Capitals announced they were leaving town to play in the Farm Show in Harrisburg. The team will now be known as the Central Penn Capitals.

Merkle sets York County passing record: York Suburban quarterback Thomas Merkle became the all-time passing leader in York County history with 5,506 yards. During a fantastic senior season, Merkle passed for 2,551 yards and 26 touchdowns compared to just eight interceptions.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.