The Fighting Irish are playing in their third consecutive District 3-A championship game.
How you gauge the success of the York Catholic football team over the last few years all depends on how you define the term.
On one hand, you can give the team credit for making it to three straight District 3-A title games, a current run that no other Class A school can rival. Or, you could knock the Fighting Irish for never finishing on top and losing in the championship game in each of the last two seasons.
Whichever side you do take, however, what can be said is that third-seeded York Catholic (6-5) knows what it's like to play in a district final. After storming back from a 14-0 hole at halftime on Friday night at Steel-High in the semifinals, the Fighting Irish responded by scoring 21 unanswered points to pull off the upset, advancing to the title game for a third consecutive season.
When York Catholic takes the field on Black Friday, it will be the seventh time in the program's history that it will play in the Class A championship game. Unfortunately, the team's recent string of coming up short in title games doesn't just date back to just the last two years. The Fighting Irish are 1-5 all-time in Class A championship games, losing their last five. So Friday won't just serve as one final chance for the senior class to have something to show for its efforts, but also a chance to snap a five-game losing streak in title games.
The only time York Catholic ever won a district title was way back in 1982 when it won the Class A championship. Since then, it's been nothing better than runner-up finishes for the Fighting Irish.
But, this isn't about the title game losses the program has suffered over the years. Rather, this is to compliment the team for continuing to find the success necessary to routinely reach this game. Especially for this senior class.
Last week, leading up to its semifinal showdown with the Rollers, York Catholic head coach Eric Depew knew the significance of making it to a third straight district title game.
"They know what’s at stake and the opportunity they have," he said. "The senior class has an opportunity to get through this game and be in the finals three years in a row. (That) would be a nice little way to end your senior year.”
Well, now they're there. But, if you were to ask any of the players if they'd rather be known as the class that made it to three straight Class A championship games, or as the class that snapped the program's title drought and go out as winners, you can be sure they'd take the latter. A third straight Class A defeat would leave a bitter taste of unfinished business in the mouths of some seniors who have had a couple of chances to take the team's legacy to a greater level.
Familiar foe: Familiarity is always a key when it comes to playing in a high-stakes sporting event. Whether it's with the opponent or just knowing what it's like to play on that stage, experience can make all the difference.
Fortunately for the Fighting Irish, they'll be familiar with both the opponent and the stage when they take the field at 1 p.m. Friday at Hersheypark Stadium. Last year, York Catholic just couldn't keep up with the Camp Hill offensive juggernaut, losing 63-49. This year, the opponent and style of play will be the same. The top-seeded Lions (10-1) will again be the Fighting Irish's opponent and are coming off a semifinal victory of their own in which they scored 46 points against Millersburg.
There won't be anything new or unfamiliar for York Catholic come Friday. It'll know exactly what's in front of it.
Friday afternoon will be the third consecutive year that the Fighting Irish will take the field in the District 3-A championship game.
Maybe this time, they'll know what it's like to come out as winners.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.