DALLASTOWN — While every team dreams of winning championships, Dallastown boys' soccer coach Matt Zimmerman is realistic.
According to Zimmerman, it is simply "Central (York), and everyone else is fighting for second."
The Panthers, who beat the Wildcats in all three matchups a year ago, including a 1-0 victory in the York-Adams League title game, might be better than they were a year ago. The two-time reigning Division I and league champions return many talented players, including standouts Igor Gomes and Mitchell Crane.
But games are not played on paper. They must be won with hard work and commitment, and that's something Zimmerman is seeing a great deal of from his team so far in practices.
"We have some pretty good athletes who can play," Zimmerman said. "And, you know what? If I told these guys to be out here (on the practice field) at 5:30 (a.m.), and we're going to have an hour-long session, I don't' think many of them would complain."
This season figures to be a bit more comfortable for Zimmerman, who begins his second season at the helm at Dallastown. Last year he had a nice core of seniors to rely on during the transition. While he only has three seniors this year, those seniors, as well as the underclassmen, all have bought into their coach's philosophy — work hard and work together.
"We do not have practice on Friday," Zimmerman said. "Well, I'm not running practice. But I think the boys are going to come out here on their own. They're really dedicated to the cause and I'm liking that."
While Zimmerman is down playing any idea of knocking off the Panthers, he's clearly happy with the progression he's seen from his team so far in the preseason. That progression was not unlike how the team closed the gap with the Panthers every time they squared off a season ago.
"We lost 4-2 then 2-1 and 1-0 in the county championship game," he said. "We got better every time and we improved. And we're doing better every day out here (now). I can see the growth. They're picking up some things with the new boys that are in and that's really nice to see."
Dallastown will have a couple of starting spots up for grabs after the graduation of the seniors from a year ago. John Schmitt, the Co-Division I Player of the Year last season, was a key in the backfield. Another big loss was Luke Nelson, a second-team all-star selection by the coaches a season ago.
With graduation brings opportunity. That chance to step up is also a motivating factor that is impressing Zimmerman so far in practices.
"We had a really good JV team last year," he said. "They played really well, and now it's time for them to step in. They have their opportunity, which is good for them. Now they've got to take it and do some damage with it."
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Division I: The Panthers will certainly be favorites to repeat as both the division and league champs. Despite the loss of Co-Player of the Year Calving Luckenbaugh, Coach Frank Lenno's squad remains loaded with talent. South Western, Red Lion, and New Oxford also figure to improve a bit, while Spring Grove could be a sleeper team, according to Zimmerman.
Division II: This division doesn't figure to be a cakewalk for anyone. Gettysburg and West York figure to be the favorites, with both programs returning a great deal of talent. The Warriors won the division title a year ago. With defender Bobby Weikert and forward Adam Yingling back, the boys from Gettysburg are looking to improve upon last year's 17-6 campaign, that included a victory in the PIAA Class AA tournament. West York will have another new coach in Brent Duffy, but Duffy is fortunate to inherit a talented club, headlined in goal by first-team Division I selection Darian McCauley.
Division III: Biglerville and York Catholic have developed a rivalry in this division lately and that figures to carry on another year. But Bermudian Springs, which returns Division III Player of the Year Johnny King, could find a way to make this a three-way race come playoff time.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.