HEISER: York-Adams Division III football programs again thriving in District 3 playoffs

  • York Catholic beat Delone Catholic in overtime to claim the District 3 Class 2-A championship.
  • Both York Catholic and Delone Catholic are members of York-Adams Division III.
  • Another D-III team, Bermudian Springs, has advanced to the District 3 Class 3-A title game.
  • In all, current Y-A members have claimed 21 small-school titles in District 3.

They've done it again.

York Catholic's Cole Witman, center, runs away from Delone Catholic's Gabe Hernandez, left, and Joe Hernandez, right, during the District 3 Class 2-A football title game. York Catholic won the game in overtime, 28-21. It was the third District 3 title for the Fighting Irish. Dawn J. Sagert photo.

The small football schools from the York-Adams League have proven — again — that they can go toe to toe vs. the best small-school programs in District 3 and emerge as champions.

Last Friday, York Catholic became the latest Y-A small school to earn a District 3 championship when it edged Y-A Division III rival Delone Catholic in an instant classic for the 2-A title. The Fighting Irish captured a 28-21 overtime thriller during a cold, rainy November night at South Western High School. That victory helped the Irish move up to a No. 4 ranking in the state in 2-A, according to the Trib HSSN poll.

Friday's success didn't stop there, however. Bermudian Springs pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2018 District 3 playoff season when it knocked off previously unbeaten Lancaster Catholic in a 3-A semifinal. The Crusaders (10-1) came into that game ranked No. 5 in the state in 3-A.

The Eagles (9-3), who finished third in Y-A Division III behind York Catholic (12-0) and Delone (10-2), will have a chance to win another District 3 title for the Y-A League this coming Friday when it takes on Middletown (10-1) in the 3-A title game at Cedar Crest High School. The two-time defending District 3 champion Blue Raiders enter the game ranked No. 3 in the state in 3-A. The Eagles will again be decided underdogs, but coach Jon DeFoe's bunch has already proven it is not intimidated by state-ranked foes.

Stark contrast to big schools: In recent weeks, this space has been used to report on the longtime District 3 playoff struggles of the big schools in the Y-A League.

It’s time to flip that script.

It’s time — probably past time — to write about the consistently strong District 3 performances of the Y-A small schools over the decades.

The contrast is rather stark.

The area small schools have consistently come up big in districts. The Y-A big schools ... well, not so much.

York Catholic beats Delone in OT to win title

The Y-A big schools have just one district championship to their credit — West York in 3-A in 2008, when there were only four classes. York High (11-1) is hoping to double that number after advancing to the District 3 5-A semifinals this season, but the Bearcats still need two more victories to earn a championship.

The small schools that are currently Y-A members, meanwhile, can boast about 21 combined titles since the District 3 playoffs started in 1982. That’s a period covering 37 seasons.

Bermudian, if it can pull another upset on Friday, can increase that total to 22. 

For the purposes of this column, a small school is defined as a 1-A program during the three-class era (1982-1984), a 1-A or 2-A program during the four-class era (1985-2015) or a 1-A, 2-A or 3-A program during the six-class era (2016 until present).

Delone Catholic's Joe Hernandez, left, looks to take down York Catholic's Mitchell Galentine during District 3 Class 2-A football title game. York Catholic would win the game 28-21 in overtime. The victory gave the current members of the York-Adams League 21 small-school district titles. Dawn J. Sagert photo

History of small-school success: Using that definition, Delone Catholic leads the way among the Y-A schools with eight district championships, followed by York Catholic (three), Bermudian Springs (three), Littlestown (three), West York (two titles in 2-A before moving up to 3-A), Hanover (one) and York Suburban (one).

In addition, the Y-A small schools have made 44 appearances in district finals, again paced by Delone (13), followed by York Catholic (10), Littlestown (seven), Bermudian Springs (six), West York (three), Hanover (three) and Fairfield (two).

York Catholic moves up notch in state rankings

This season, the Y-A small schools have produced at least one district champion (York Catholic) and three other finalists (Delone, Bermudian and Fairfield in 1-A). The league had a finalist in each of the three small-school classes.

Given that historical background, it’s probably fair to say that Y-A Division III, which is home to Delone, York Catholic, Littlestown, Bermudian, Hanover, Fairfield, York Tech and Biglerville, is as consistently strong as any small-school division in District 3. Five of the D-III schools made the district playoffs this season, compiling a 5-3 record thus far. In addition, five of the D-III schools have claimed at least one district championship.

Delone Catholic's Evan Brady, left, pulls away from York Catholic's Jarred Kohl during District 3 Class 2-A football title game. York Catholic would win the game 28-21 in overtime. In its history, Delone has won eight district titles and made 13 appearances in district title games. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Clarifying note: It should be noted, however, that not all of the championships or finals appearances for Delone, Littlestown and Bermudian came when they were members of the Y-A League, although most of them did.

Delone and Littlestown previously competed in the Blue Mountain League before moving to the Y-A League in 1992. Bermudian competed in both the BML and Mid-Penn Conference before moving to the Y-A League in 2004. Bermudian won all three of its titles before joining the Y-A League, while Delone and Littlestown each won two of their crowns before joining the Y-A League.

Still, those schools are Y-A members now, so, like it or not, we’re going to claim all of their district championships. After all, the BML is now defunct, so no one from that league is likely to argue the point. The Mid-Penn Conference, meanwhile, has long been more well-known for its big-school powers, so the Mid-Penn folks likely won't quibble with us, either.

Chance for another title: No matter how you slice it, however, the Y-A small schools have continually thrived during District 3 competition. They've consistently held up their end when it comes to garnering respect from around District 3.

They’ve proven it yet again this season, and the district season isn't over yet.

Bermudian, if it can beat the odds once more on Friday, has a chance to make it one of the most memorable seasons ever for the Y-A Division III programs.

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