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VIDEO: York High head coach Russ Stoner talks after the Bearcats claim a share of the D-I title with a 54-14 win over Central York JACOB CALVIN MEYER, 717-505-5406/@jcalvinmeyer

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OK, it wasn’t a great overall performance, but it was an improvement.

It’s helpful to remember that the longest journey starts with the first step, and last weekend, the big football schools from the York-Adams League took a baby step toward respectability.

They can thank the York High Bearcats for that.

The Y-A Division I co-champs were the only local big school (Class 6-A, Class 5-A and Class 4-A) to pick up a victory in Friday night’s District 3 openers, and they did it in impressive fashion. The Bearcats rolled past Northern York 42-7 in a 5-A contest played in monsoon-like conditions at Small Athletic Field.

Despite the torrents of rain, York High senior standout Dayjure Stewart was an unstoppable force, rushing for a District 3 playoff record of 468 yards on 39 carries.

According to our stats, that gives him 2,708 rushing yards for the season and puts him well within reach of the single-season Y-A rushing record of 2,845 yards, set by Eastern York’s Alex Cooley in 2012. Stewart is averaging a staggering 12 yards per rush.

So, the Bearcats (10-1) and Stewart certainly did their part to uphold the honor of the Y-A League.

Other big schools fall: Unfortunately, four other Y-A big schools suffered first-round losses. Of course, it should be noted that, at least according to the seeds based on the power ratings, all four were expected to lose.

That left the Y-A big schools with a 1-4 overall record on the opening weekend of district play. That may not sound like much, but it’s certainly better than the 0-5 record the Y-A big schools endured in 2017 and the 0-4 mark they suffered in 2016.

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It doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that one win is better than none.

Northeastern, West York put up fights: In addition, in two of the four losses, the Y-A schools put up serious fights before losing.

In 5-A, Northeastern pushed a one-loss Shippensburg team to the brink before dropping a 6-0 decision. West York, meanwhile, hung tough against West Perry in a 4-A contest before losing, 33-22.

In the high-profile 6-A classification, however, the news wasn’t nearly as good for the York County programs. Red Lion got blanked by Wilson, 36-0, while Central York was doubled up by Central Dauphin, 42-21.

Still, the Y-A programs, on average, got outscored by about eight points per game. That’s much better than the 30-point average deficit in 2017 and the 22-point average deficit in 2016. Of course, York High’s big win helped skew that number in favor of the Y-A teams.

Additionally, the Y-A big schools would appear to have two very winnable games on this Friday’s schedule.

York High vs. Shippensburg: York High travels to Shippensburg in a 5-A quarterfinal. According to the seedings, the third-seeded Greyhounds (10-1) should be favored to beat the sixth-seeded Bearcats.

According to the Trib HSSN state rankings, however, the Bearcats should be favored. According to those rankings, York High is No. 4 in the state in 5-A, while the Greyhounds are unranked.

Shippensburg owns three wins over Y-A big schools (Northeastern, Dover and West York), but none of those victories came by more than seven points.

Rainy weather is again predicted for Friday night, but the Bearcats and Stewart have already proven they can thrive in those conditions. If York High can hold onto the ball and limit the penalties, which have both been issues at times this season, the Bearcats should have a very solid chance of advancing.

Gettysburg vs. Conrad Weiser: The other district game involving a Y-A big school comes in the 4-A quarterfinals, when No. 5 seed Gettysburg visits No. 4 seed Conrad Weiser in a battle of 8-2 programs. Both of those schools had byes during last week’s opening round.

Gettysburg and Conrad Weiser have no common foes, but the Warriors took 4-A powerhouse Bishop McDevitt to the wall early this season before eventually succumbing, 48-35. If the Warriors can play with McDevitt, which is ranked No. 2 in the state in 4-A, they can certainly play with Conrad Weiser.

The deciding factor may be Gettysburg running back Ammon Robinson, who has piled up more than 1,400 rushing yards while averaging 9.3 yards per carry.

Possible 2-0 mark on Friday: So, it’s very possible that Y-A big schools, after going 1-4 last week in opening-round district action, could go 2-0 this coming week in the quarterfinals and put two teams into semifinal contests.

If that happens, that would be more than a baby step toward respectability.

It would, in fact, represent a sizable stride.

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

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