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Any reputable columnist knows it’s never too early to speculate.

After all, that’s what we’re paid to do.

So, let’s speculate a little.

The high school football season is just four weeks into a 10-week regular season. The York-Adams teams just started league play last week. And the vast majority of the season’s showdown games are yet to come.

Still, let’s have a little fun and take a look at how the local teams are faring in the early going of the District 3 playoff chase.

If the season ended right now, 10 of the 23 Y-A teams would make the newly expanded district field. In case you missed it, the number of district football qualifiers mushroomed from 32 to 44 teams for the 2018 season.

The need for such an expansion has been a topic of some heated debate. Some believe it has watered down the achievement of making the postseason. Others believe it has expanded opportunity.

At this point, the debate has become moot. A decision has been made,  and everyone involved must accept it.

So, with that in mind, here’s a class-by-class look at the District 3 power ratings for Y-A programs heading into the fifth week of the season:

Class 6-A: The top eight teams will qualify in this class, and right now, Red Lion (3-1) and Central York (3-1) are making the cut.

The Lions are No. 5, with their only loss to No. 1 Chambersburg (4-0), while the Panthers are No. 8, with their only loss to Red Lion.

It would appear both teams have good chances of making the final eight come late October. It’s hard to imagine either team finishing worse than 7-3, which should be good enough to get in.

At the moment, Dallastown (2-2) is on the outside looking in at No. 10. The Wildcats still must face unbeaten York High (4-0), Central York and Red Lion, so they're facing an uphill climb. That makes Friday’s game vs. Northeastern (2-2) almost a must-win contest if Dallastown harbors legitimate district hopes.

Class 5-A: In this class, a whopping 14 teams make the district field.

You can say, with almost absolute certainty, that York High will be one of those 14.

The unbeaten Bearcats have been dominant, outscoring their four foes 231-44.

Unfortunately, point differential doesn’t come into play when determining the power ratings. That’s why York High is currently No. 5 in 5-A behind four other 4-0 teams (No. 1 Cocalico, No. 2 Manheim Central, No. 3 Solanco and No. 4 Shippensburg). The 5-11 record of York’s four foes hasn’t helped the Bearcats.

Look for York to move up in the ratings as the season progresses, with games against  stronger foes (Red Lion, Central York, Dallastown, Northeastern) looming.

Northeastern is No. 10 in 5-A, but for the Bobcats to stay inside the top 14, they might need to find a way to beat at least one of the following: York High, Central York, Red Lion or Dallastown, while sweeping South Western (0-4), Spring Grove (1-3) and New Oxford (1-3).

Dover (2-2) is at No. 15, but in the wide-open Division II race, the Eagles easily have the potential to finish 7-3, which should move them inside the top 14.

Class 4-A: Ten teams will qualify in this class, and right now only No. 8 Kennard-Dale (3-1) is inside the cut line.

The Rams will likely need to go 4-2 down the stretch against  their Division II foes to keep their spot inside the top 10.

Gettysburg (2-2) sits at No. 11, but the Warriors look like the most talented team in D-II,  and it would be a major surprise if the Warriors didn’t eventually qualify for a playoff spot.

No. 14 York Suburban (2-2) and No. 16 Eastern York (2-2) both have shots to make the field. Each, however, might need to go 5-1 down the stretch to secure a berth.

Milton Hershey (4-0) is ranked No. 1 in 4-A.

Class 3-A: A six-pack of teams qualify for the postseason in 3-A.

No. 2 Bermudian Springs (3-1) and No. 6 Littlestown (3-1) are making the cut right now. Expect both to be playing come November, especially given the weakness of the bottom half of Division III. It’s hard to imagine any scenario where either team finishes worse than 6-4.

Lancaster Catholic (4-0) owns the No. 1 spot in 3-A.

Class 2-A: This class could eventually feature an all-Y-A final in November.

Delone Catholic (4-0) currently owns the No. 1 spot, while York Catholic (4-0) sits at No. 2. Four teams will eventually make the district 2-A field.

The Squires already own a 54-19 mercy-rule, road shellacking of No. 3 Steel-High (3-1) and have been extremely impressive thus far, outscoring their foes 218-26.

The TribLive High School Sports Network has Delone ranked No. 4 in the state in 2-A.

The Squires are hungry for a playoff berth after missing out last season despite an 8-2 final record. Only two teams made the 2-A field in 2017. Delone, however, still faces major road tests this fall vs. Littlestown, Bermudian and York Catholic.

The Irish haven’t been as dominant as Delone on the scoreboard, owning an 86-39 point differential, but they still own a record identical to the Squires.

The Delone-York Catholic battle on Oct. 19  could ultimately decide the No. 1 seed in this class.

Class 1-A: Only two teams will qualify for the district playoffs in this class, and right now Fairfield (1-2) is No. 2.

There are only three 1-A teams in District 3, and the third is winless Millersburg (0-4). No. 1 Halifax (4-0) looks to be a lock for the No. 1 seed.

Fairfield has a couple of  opportunities for wins vs. a pair of 0-4 teams in Hanover and York Tech. Winning both would likely guarantee the Green Knights a berth in the district final. That would be a rather amazing achievement for a team that almost canceled its varsity season this summer because of its small roster size.

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

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