STROHECKER: Snelbaker may enjoy big first season with Dover in York-Adams Division II
You have to go all the way back to the 2006 season to find the last time a school other than West York or Dover won the York-Adams League Division II football crown.
In that year, it was Susquehannock. It's unlikely that the Warriors will be the team to spoil that trend in 2015. While the Eagles and Bulldogs have combined to win the past eight Division II crowns, six of those have gone to West York, including four straight from 2007-10 and then most recently, last year.
A look back: The 2014 season was all about the Bulldogs. They were, without a doubt, the class of the division, and possibly the entire league.
Led by Division II Player of the Year, senior quarterback Ross Campbell, West York went a perfect 6-0 in division play and 10-2 overall. That includes going 9-1 in the regular season and a dominating 35-14 win in the District 3-AAA first round over Donegal. The Bulldogs saw their season end in the quarterfinals with a 28-18 loss to Cocalico. The 10-win season was a major bounce back for the Bulldogs after registering four wins in 2013. We'll call 2013 an anomaly, considering that was the only time West York didn't make the playoffs in the last nine years.
However, 2014 wasn't all about the dominant Bulldogs. In its first year as a member of the Y-A League, Gettysburg had a strong showing, going 8-3 overall and making it to the District 3-AAA playoffs, before seeing its season end to Milton Hershey. The only other school to make the postseason out of Division II was Eastern York, which actually finished fourth in the division behind Dover, despite going 7-3 in the regular season, but only 3-3 in division play.
2015 breakdown: This year has the makings of a different outcome, not just for the reigning-champion Bulldogs, but for the entire division.
West York won't have Campbell anymore, nor will it have longtime head coach Ron Miller, who was voted the Division II Coach of the Year. Campbell graduated last spring and Miller resigned. The former isn't anything new. Every team deals with graduation, but the loss of Miller came as a shock. He coached the Bulldogs for nine years and had serious success. Now, it'll be up to Jeremy Jones to fill the incredibly large shoes Miller leaves behind. Jones, who was previously the head coach at York Suburban, was a big get for West York, but that may not be enough to help the Bulldogs repeat as champions. Aside from Campbell, the Bulldogs will have a number of holes to fill and, after years of maneuvering through graduation issues relatively smoothly, 2015 might be too much to handle.
Especially when you consider that other teams, such the York Suburban and Dover, are primed to make a run at the top spot with more experienced rosters while coming off of somewhat down years. If there is anything that could potentially hold back either of those two clubs, it's the fact that, just like West York, they'll also usher in new coaches.
Suburban hired Andy Loucks, the former Kennard-Dale head man and a coordinator at Franklin & Marshall College last season, to replace Jones, while Dover lured Wayne Snelbaker away from the Bulldogs and back to his alma mater. Both guys are coming into good situations.
In total, more than half of the seven teams in Division II will have new coaches. Susquehannock brings on Steve Wiles to replace J.C. Lewis. Wiles had great success in his previous stints as head coach at Delone Catholic and Hanover and will now try to implement his Wing-T approach to the Warriors, looking to improve the team from its one-win campaign in 2014.
Players to watch: West York will need to rely heavily on wide receiver Terry Cains. He had 15 catches last year, taking a back seat to the league's third-leading wideout, Diego Torres, who graduated in the spring.
Gettysburg had 18 all-stars last year and only three are coming back. That means there are a lot of gaps that need filled for Matt Heiser's club. That could put a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of senior running back/defensive back Elijah Johnson to pick up much of the offensive and defensive slack.
Durran Ledbetter ran for a team-high of nearly 700 yards and eight touchdowns last season for the Eagles. Now, back for his senior season, expect more from him on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, he'll be one of the stalwarts in the linebacking corps.
The Golden Knights are welcoming back one of their top rushers from 2014 in senior Keegan Corwell. By the end of last season, when he began to see more of the workload, he averaged more than eight yards per carry and scored five times. And oh yeah, Eastern runs a Wing-T, right up a running back's alley.
If Suburban is in the Division II title hunt near the back end of the season, don't be stunned if Collin Mailman and Thomas Merkle are the major reasons why. The two were one of the more lethal quarterback-wide receiver combos last year and will be back at it again in 2015. Merkle threw for the second most passing yards in the league last year and Mailman was his go-to target, catching 47 balls for 976.
Susquehannock QB Josh Stoneberg is back for his senior campaign and looking to build off his 1,000-plus yard season. However, with Wiles implementing the Wing-T, we could see Stoneberg more impactful with his feet, rather than his arm.
The Kennard-Dale Rams can improve on a lot from a rough 1-9 season last year and it'll start with Kyle Wooldridge. A first-team all-star wideout last year for Kennard-Dale, Woolridge caught 22 passes last year for just under 300 yards. Expect those numbers to improve. They'll have to, if the Rams want to win more than one game in 2015.
Prediction: When Snelbaker was introduced as the new head coach for Dover back in April, he said the community couldn't have been more thrilled to have him come home.
Just imagine how thrilled the Eagle faithful may be come November when he returns the program back to the top of Division II. Dover is the pick to win the division this year because it has one of the deepest rosters in the division and arguably one of the best in-game coaches in the entire league. When you put two and two together, Snelbaker should get the most out of his players and they should reward him on Friday nights with win after win and eventually, a Division II crown.
Full standings prediction: 1. Dover; 2. York Suburban; 3. West York; 4. Gettysburg; 5. Eastern York; 6. Susquehannock; 7. Kennard-Dale
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker