Football has helped make York County into a District 3 girls’ lacrosse power.
Sounds slightly absurd, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s not quite as absurd as it sounds at first blush.
Anyone who follows Pennsylvania high school sports knows that the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, in October of 2015, approved the expansion of classifications in nearly all of its sponsored sports.
The driving force behind the move was, of course, football, the single most popular sport in the state.
Many coaches, fans and administrators felt the previous four-class football system was unfair, especially in the division for the biggest schools. The separation between the biggest 4-A school and the smallest 4-A school was more than 1,000 male students.
So, in an effort to close that gap, the PIAA opted to increase the football classifications from four to six for the 2016-2017 sports season.
Lacrosse goes to two classes: There was just one problem. The PIAA couldn’t just increase the number of classifications for football. If the organization approved more classifications for football, it also had to do it for other sports. It was a simple matter of fairness.
That’s where girls’ lacrosse comes into play. Before this season, girls’ lacrosse had just a single class. That was inherently unfair to the smaller schools, which had to battle head to head with schools that had hundreds more female students.
In 2016-2017, however, that’s changed. Under the PIAA classification expansion, there are now two classes in girls’ lacrosse.
County display of strength: That has allowed the York County teams to flex their muscles against schools of similar size.
The local 2-A teams have taken advantage of the change and put on an incredible display of strength in this year’s District 3 playoffs.
The utter dominance of the county schools will be on full display at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Hersheypark Stadium when No. 1 seed Susquehannock (19-3) battles No. 2 seed Kennard-Dale (17-1-1) for the district 2-A championship.
Susquehannock: The Warriors finished second to K-D during the York-Adams League regular season, including a 15-12 regular-season setback against the Rams. Susquehannock then suffered a disappointing 11-5 loss to York Catholic in the league playoff semifinals. Since then, however, the Warriors.have been on a serious district roll.
Susquehannock has outscored its three district foes by a whopping 68-24 margin, led by all-league midfielder Rachel Marshner, who has poured in 19 goals.
Now Susquehannock is on the precipice of its first-ever district girls' lacrosse crown.
Kennard-Dale: K-D, meanwhile, has outscored its three district foes 63-20, paced by Emmie Dressel, who was recently voted the league’s Most Outstanding Player. In district action, Dressel has piled up 12 goals and 18 assists. She’s already committed to play NCAA Division I lacrosse with La Salle University.
The Rams have already won league regular-season and playoff titles. Now they hope to win a second consecutive district crown. K-D earned a breakthrough championship for the Y-A League a season ago when it ended Manheim Township’s seven-year stranglehold on the district girls’ lacrosse crown, a school and program much larger in size.
This year, the Rams won’t have to deal with the Blue Streaks, who will battle Wilson for the district 3-A crown at 7 p.m. Wednesday, also at Hersheypark Stadium.
York Catholic: York County’s dominance of the District 3 2-A field doesn’t end with Susquehannock and K-D. No. 3 seed York Catholic (15-3-1) will battle No. 4 seed Hershey (16-4) for third place at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lower Dauphin Middle School.
The Lady Irish would have to be considered the solid favorite to win that game. After all, York Catholic beat Susquehannock by six goals in the Y-A semifinals, while the Warriors routed Hershey on Monday in the district semifinals, 18-10.
So, there’s a very good chance the top three finishers in the District 3 2-A playoffs will all come from York County.
All three of the area teams have also already qualified for the PIAA state playoffs.
There’s little doubt that the Warriors, Rams and Irish would have been more than competitive under the old single-class format, despite playing against significantly larger schools. K-D, after all, won the district crown under that format just a season ago.
When you put those three programs up against schools of similar size, however, the results have been decidedly lopsided.
It’s produced a season that the York County lacrosse community won’t soon forget.
And, in a strange way, they can thank football for their unprecedented success.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.