Coach Russ Stoner and the rest of his coaching staff celebrate with the York High Bearcats' football team after a big victory vs. Dallastown during the 2017 season. Elijah Armold, York Dispatch
It’s no secret that many sports fans in the City of York aren’t terribly happy with some of us media types right now.
After a quick scan of local social-media chatter, that is readily apparent.
That’s because the Bearcat faithful believe, quite strongly, that their rejuvenated football program isn’t getting the credit or attention it deserves — in York County, in District 3 and in Pennsylvania.
Well, there’s a good chance that’s all about to change.
There’s just one small caveat — the unbeaten Bearcats (5-0) must keep winning.
Of course, winning, and winning big, haven’t been a problem for York High so far. The Bearcats have outscored their five foes by an astronomical 286-58 margin — an average winning edge of nearly 46 points per game.
If the Bearcats continue to perform that way in the second half of the regular season and into the postseason, York High will get showered with plaudits from every corner of the commonwealth.
They’ll also prove all their doubters out there wrong.
Competition gets tougher: There’s just one small issue. The competition from here on out will get a whole lot tougher.
York’s first five foes have a combined record of 6-19, with only one of those teams having more than one win — Cedar Crest at 3-2.
The Bearcats’ next five foes will be a significant upgrade, with a 13-12 combined record, including pair of 4-1 teams (Red Lion and Central York) and a very dangerous 3-2 Dallastown team that is riding a three-game winning streak.
The Bearcats start their second-half stretch at Small Field on Friday night vs. the Wildcats.
If York High can make it through those next five games unscathed, it will capture the outright York-Adams Division I championship and enter the District 3 Class 5-A playoffs as a serious title contender.
If the Bearcats can run the regular-season table and make a district run, the accolades the Bearcats’ fans crave will surely follow.
Getting some statewide love: Actually, truth be told, York High is already starting to get some statewide love.
After beginning the season unranked, the Bearcats have moved up to No. 5 in the latest TribLive High School Sports Network 5-A state rankings. That poll is based in western Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Football News, in its most recent state rankings, had York High at No. 8 in 5-A.
Harrisburg-based PennLive.com, however, still isn’t buying into the Bearcats. York High is not among PennLive’s top 10 5-A teams in the state. Instead, PennLive only lists the Bearcats as one of five “teams to watch” in 5-A.
Reasons for skepticism: PennLive’s skepticism about the Bearcats most likely stems from three sources:
► The Bearcats’ suspect 2018 schedule to date.
► The generally poor performances by Y-A big schools in past district playoffs.
► And the 56-7 beatdown that York High absorbed vs. Gov. Mifflin in the first round of district play last season. The Gov. Mifflin loss followed a surprising 9-1 York High regular season in 2017, including a Y-A D-I co-championship. That followed a 1-9 Bearcats campaign in 2016.
District outlook: The Bearcats are also starting to climb up the district 5-A power ratings. Just last week, they were No. 5 in those ratings. This week, they’ve moved to No. 3.
If they can sweep the next five games — obviously no easy task — and finish 10-0, they’ll almost certainly finish No. 1 or No. 2 in the power ratings.
The only team likely to finish ahead of them in the district ratings is traditional Lancaster County powerhouse Manheim Central. The Barons, owners of 17 district titles, are rated No. 1 in the state in 5-A by TribLive, No. 3 by the Pennsylvanaia Football News and No. 2 by PennLive.
Some in the Bearcat Nation are openly talking about getting a shot at the Barons in a potential district title game.
You might want to file that under “be careful what you wish for.”
Goals within reach: Still, there’s no doubt that all of the Bearcats’ lofty goals — an outright D-I championship, a district title and a state playoff berth — are still very much within reach.
Coach Russ Stoner, for one, is convinced this version of the Bearcats is very different from the one that got manhandled by Gov. Mifflin last November, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, where he believes the Bearcats are much stronger and more physical.
The early indications are that Stoner is right. This Bearcats team definitely looks better than the 2017 team that finished 9-2 overall, but only time will tell how much better.
Is it now good enough to compete with the top 5-A teams in the district?
There's little question that York High's skill-position players — led by standouts Dayjure Stewart, Rob Rideout and Seth Bernstein — compare favorably with any 5-A team in the district.
There are still questions about the line play, however, especially against tougher competition.
Starting Friday, the competition gets tougher, and the Bearcats can start to prove their doubters wrong.
All they have to do is keep winning.
— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.