STROHECKER: A look back at a memorable 2016-17 York County sports season
- The York Catholic football team won its second ever district title and advanced to the state tournament.
- Courtney Harnish capped her swimming career with two more state gold medals and broke her own 200 free state record.
- Four spring sport teams made the state finals, with Northeastern and Central York boys' volleyball bringing home gold.
When you're in the midst of covering the high school sports season, it's amazing how fast it feels like the year comes and goes.
At one point, you're gearing up for high school football and, the next thing you know, the spring season has concluded.
Yet, when you look back on everything that took place, you start to remember how long ago it seemed like something happened. Great moments from the fall and winter feel like an eternity because they've been replaced by other, more recent great moments from the spring.
So, here's a roundup of some of the best things to occur in York County high school sports during the 2016-17 season.
Fall: When you think of the fall season, the first sport that comes to mind is football.
So, we'll begin there. This past football season was known for two teams — Red Lion and York Catholic.
The Lions ran through the York-Adams League regular season unbeaten for the first time since 1974. Red Lion was rarely tested during its winning streak, led by quarterback Sam Emig, who broke the school's single-season scoring record.
As a team, the Lions were among the league's best in every major statistical category. Of course, everyone involved with Red Lion football would give back most of those achievements if it meant not losing in the first round of the District 3 6-A playoffs. Still, there's little to be disappointed about with a 10-1 season.
A total of seven Y-A League teams qualified for the district playoffs in football, but only one actually won a game.
That honor belongs to the Fighting Irish, who won the District 3 2-A championship and advanced into the state tournament. York Catholic lost to Dunmore a week later in the state playoffs, but it didn't diminish the fact that the Fighting Irish snapped a long district championship drought and win the second one in program history.
Also taking place in the fall was the continuing dominance of the York Suburban boys' cross-country team. A sport not as glamorous as football, or really any others for that matter, the Trojans kept rolling over all District 3 2-A opponents, capturing their fourth consecutive district gold and also finishing as runners-up at the state competition.
Winter: Much like football in the fall, basketball owns the winter season.
This year, York County schools had impressive years, filled with district gold medals and deep state tournament runs. Starting at the district level, the York Country Day and Northeastern boys' basketball teams both collected titles, while the York Catholic and Susquehannock girls' teams were crowned champions.
The win for the Greyhounds was their second consecutive Class 1-A title, while the Bobcats brought home the program's first ever district gold. The Fighting Irish girls' won their 11th gold medal in 12 seasons, while the Warriors won their first ever district crown in the final seconds of the 5-A championship game.
Three of those teams — Northeastern, Susquehannock and York Catholic — all made runs to the state semifinals. The runs for the Bobcats and Warriors, along with York Country Day advancing to the state quarterfinals, were all program-best performances and something to build off of heading into next season.
We also saw the conclusion of arguably the best individual basketball career in the history of York County.
Spring Grove's Eli Brooks capped his four-year career with the Rockets by leading them to the PIAA Class 5-A state quarterfinals, the deepest run in program history. On top of that, he became the program's all-time leading scorer, finishing with 2,426 points, which is also second-most in York County history. He'll be moving on to play for Michigan next season.
One sport that tends to get overlooked in the winter is swimming, despite York County possessing the best female high school swimmer in the nation.
West York senior Courtney Harnish did her part to put swimming on the front pages in the county, dominating every event in which she swam. After not swimming for the Bulldogs in her sophomore and junior years to focus on her international dreams, Harnish returned for her senior campaign. And, like how her freshman year went, Harnish's senior season resulted in a lot of state gold medals and records.
Harnish won gold and broke her own state record in the 200 free event and then won the 100 back a day later.
Erica Sarver, Harnish's teammate at West York, capped her diving career with a gold medal in the Class 2-A diving competition.
Both Harnish and Sarver will compete at the Division I level next year, with Harnish attending the University of Georgia and Sarver going to San Diego State.
Spring: This spring season was one of the best in history for York County programs.
Across three different sports, there were four schools competing for state gold medals, winning two of them.
The Northeastern boys' volleyball team continued its dynasty in Class 2-A with a four-game win over Beaver County Christian, winning its fifth consecutive title. Central York won its second Class 3-A crown in four years with a four-game win over North Allegheny.
On the same day that the volleyball teams were competing for state gold, so too was the Kennard-Dale girls' lacrosse team.
The Rams became the first non-District 1 school to compete in a girls' lacrosse state final, but ultimately fell in the Class 2-A championship game to District 1 Radnor. Still, it was the best ever result for the K-D program which continues to raise the bar higher and higher for itself.
A week later, the Dallastown baseball team capped off the whole prep sports season in the state by playing in the final event of the 2016-17 season, the Class 6-A state final.
After enduring a three and a half hour rain delay, the Wildcats saw the best season in program history come to a heartbreaking end, losing 1-0 on a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh to Pennsbury. Still, Dallastown won its second consecutive Y-A League title and the first District 3 championship in school history, going 23-5 overall.
A number of other teams had strong postseasons across all sports. Kennard-Dale softball won a district gold medal, the Susquehannock girls' lacrosse team won district gold and the Eastern York boys' lacrosse team became the first boys' team in York County history to qualify for the state tournament.
Holden Koons proved he'll be a force on the boys' tennis circuit for the next two years. The sophomore from Dallastown won his second consecutive District 3 3-A individual title, dropping five total games in his four matches. He then bettered last year's state performance by reaching the second round of the state competition.
There were so many other great moments from this past year, but didn't quite make the cut of finding space in this column.
Regardless, whether or not a playoff run or individual performance made it on this list, what the entire 2016-17 season did is raise expectations for 2017-18.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org