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A golden opportunity awaits.
For decades, big football schools from the York-Adams League have had to endure the jabs and jeers from their peers throughout District 3.
The advent of social media just made matters worse for the area programs. It made it infinitely easier to hurl insults across cyberspace.
Unfortunately, the players, coaches and fans from the local programs typically had no real retort. You can't argue with the numbers on the scoreboard, and those numbers usually didn't cast the county programs in a favorable light.
By now, nearly every local football fan knows the history. In the three-plus decades since the District 3 playoffs began, no York-Adams program has ever won a district title in the top, big-school classification (6-A in the current six-class format or 4-A under the old four-class bracket).
West York is the only area team to win a district title in any big-school division, taking the 3-A crown when there were four classes in 2008.
Last year, the York-Adams programs hit a new low, going 0-9 during the opening weekend of district play.
The nonleague, early season games typically haven't gone much better for the Y-A football schools, at least when the area programs went up against the top big-school teams from the Lancaster-Lebanon, Mid-Penn or Berks leagues. Double-digit losses were the norm.
Friday night, however, three big schools from York County will have an opportunity to rewrite the longtime, painful narrative and earn some much-craved respect.
Central York, Red Lion and York High each have a chance to prove that the 2018 York County big-school football programs are a different breed than their predecessors.
Each of those squads enters its final nonleague contest at 2-0 on the young season. Each has been more than a little impressive in compiling those records. And each will face a foe that has legitimate hopes of being a district playoff team come November.
All three will have to demonstrate their mettle on the road. Central is at Hempfield, Red Lion is at Chamberburg, and York High is at Cedar Crest.
Central York: The Panthers enter Friday's game on an emotional high, fresh off a 31-14 defeat of traditional district power Cumberland Valley. It was Central's first-ever victory over the 13-time district-champion Eagles.
That's the good news for Central, which has outscored its first two foes, 69-28. The bad news? It doesn't appear that the CV team that limped off Central's field Friday night was a typical Eagles bunch. The 2018 CV outfit is now 0-2 and has been outscored 79-35.
Still, any win over CV is a cause for celebration, especially considering the many beatdowns the Eagles have inflicted on Y-A programs over the decades.
Now Central needs to prove that the CV win was no fluke. A victory over a solid Lancaster County squad would do just that.
The Black Knights are 1-1 after beating Central's Y-A Division rival Dallastown, 24-19, and losing to Manheim Central, 28-7. Don't let the Manheim Central loss fool you, however. Like, CV, the Barons are a typical district power, owning a record 17 district crowns. Unlike CV, however, this Barons team is loaded and is a legitimate threat to win a 5-A state title. In its latest poll, PennLive.com has MC ranked No. 5 in the state in 5-A.
So, Hempfield's 21-point loss to the Barons is certainly no embarrassment.
If Central can follow its big CV win by beating a Knights team that has made 11 district appearances over the years, it would send a message that would resonate throughout the region.
Red Lion: The Lions' battle vs. Chambersburg will match a pair of 2-0 teams.
Neither team has been threatened thus far. Red Lion has outscored its opponents (McCaskey and Waynesboro) 83-20, while Chambersburg owns a 99-39 edge in its games vs. Greencastle and South Western.
However, neither team yet owns a signature victory. None of their four beaten foes is expected to be especially strong this season.
The winner of Friday night's game, however, will own a victory worth crowing about.
Chambersburg, typically, is not one of the Mid-Penn's power programs, but this year's Trojans team has been impressive. Chambersburg is one of the largest schools in the district, in terms of enrollment, so you know there are plenty of good athletes roaming the halls of the Franklin County school.
If Red Lion can move to 3-0, it would send the Lions into Y-A D-I action with some serious momentum.
York High: The talented Bearcats have been putting up video-game statistics while rolling to their 63-16 victory over Reading and a 55-0 triumph over McCaskey.
Friday night, however, the opposition figures to be tougher — much tougher.
Cedar Crest has outscored its two opponents (Lebanon and Hershey), 70-33.
The Falcons will almost certainly put up a much stronger fight than York High's first two over-matched foes, especially playing on their home turf in Lebanon County.
The Bearcats will likely have a speed advantage at the skill positions. Line play, however, might tell the tale. Last year in the first round of districts, York High was out-muscled at the line of scrimmage in an ugly loss to Governor Mifflin.
The Bearcats need to prove they can stand toe-to-toe with other big schools in the district.
Friday night will provide just that opportunity.
There's that word again — opportunity.
For the Panthers, Lions and Bearcats, it's an opportunity to garner respect for a football league that has long been — justifiably — overlooked and disregarded.
Friday night can change that narrative.
The three Y-A schools just need to seize the opportunity.
— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.