STROHECKER: Irish, Eagles look like favorites in D-III
- York Catholic returns the Y-A League's leading rusher from 2015, Jakkar Kinard.
- Bermudian Springs missed out on a fifth straight division title in 2015, going 5-5.
- Delone Catholic loses only one all-star from last year, running back Tavian Dorsey.
Last year's York-Adams League Division III race in football was full of surprises.
There was Hanover's amazing rebound from a 1-9 2014 season to going 9-2 last year and capturing a share of the division title. You had Bermudian Springs suffer a rare down year, helped along by an 0-4 start to the season, only to rattle off five straight wins before losing its final game and missing out on a fifth consecutive division crown. And then there were individual breakout performers, such as York Catholic junior running back Jakkar Kinard leading the league in rushing and senior quarterback Ben Hurda showcasing his ability as a quarterback to help lead Biglerville to a co-title with the Nighthawks.
The beginning of any sports season is always a great time because we're always so keen on making predictions and think we know who will be great that when the unpredictable occurs, it shocks us all. Yet, we still try to anticipate what the season might hold anyway.
And, obviously, this year will be no different.
Two-team race?: After going 5-5 last year and suffering a down year to their standards, expect the Eagles to be right back near the top of the Division III race like usual. Bermudian didn't lose a whole lot and brings back several all-stars from a year ago, including senior fullback/linebacker Ashton West, senior wide receiver/defensive back Quinton Nace and senior tight end/lineback Trevor Grim. Along with those three, the Eagles are also one of a handful of teams within the league who will return a quarterback of some sorts from last season. Chase Dull split time with senior Tristan Hoke in 2015 and will likely see the majority of the snaps this year, giving Berm a sizable advantage in that regard.
However, the Fighting Irish also bring back their starting quarterback from last season, Dan Yokemick, along with Kinard, who rushed for more than 1,300 yards en route to helping York Catholic make a third straight District 3-A title game. Those two will be the catalysts to the offense and in the defensive backfield, while also bringing back two of the bigger offensive and defensive lineman in the league in seniors Matt Knauer and Liam Landis. The Eagles and Fighting Irish don't meet until Week 8 this year, so circle that as a potential match-up that could decide the Division III champion.
If this division does turn into a three-horse race, it could be because of Delone Catholic, a team that went 4-6 in 2015 and only lost one all-star from last season, running back Tavian Dorsey. Brian Shermeyer is back at quarterback and he'll have a few weapons coming back at his disposal, so expect the Squires to at least be a .500 and possibly challenge for the division title.
Taking a step back: Hanover was the Y-A League's sweetheart team a year ago, with its improbable eight-win turnaround from 2014. However, every key piece that played a hand in helping the Nighthawks go 9-2 and grab a share of the Division III crown graduated, including senior quarterback and Division III Player of the Year Kyle Krout. Junior Cam Mumma is the likely starting quarterback going into the year after backing up Krout last season, but even he, along with senior running back Resean Williams, will have trouble following up Hanover's impressive 2015 season.
Joining the Nighthawks in most likely not duplicating last year's success could be the Canners. Co-champions with Hanover and then beating the Nighthawks in the first round of the District 3-AA playoffs, Biglerville also lost much of its core from a year ago and must try to contend in a division where the favorites are more experienced. Losing Hurda at QB will be a challenge, especially with no clear-cut favorite set to fill his void. Also, only two all-stars return from last season, linemen Dalton Cox and Brent Hayes, meaning another eight-win season for head coach Alex Ramos and the Canners might not be in the fold.
Taking advantage of an opportunity: With York Catholic and Berm the likely favorites in the division and several other teams, like Littlestown, Fairfield and Delone Catholic, trying to simply improve off of last year's seasons, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot that's in question at the top of the division.
But, that doesn't mean there aren't opportunities out there for the other programs. With the new re-classification by the PIAA, going from four classes to six, most of the teams in the division are now 2-A and 3-A schools. Only the Green Knights are a 1-A school and York Tech is a 6-A school. Yes, you read that correctly. The Spartans, despite their low turnout in athletes, are a 6-A school in the eyes of the PIAA because of the school's large male enrollment, meaning teams like the Fighting Irish, Eagles and any other Division III programs that have hopes of making the postseason could get a playoff boost at the expense of York Tech.
That's because if a smaller school defeats a larger school, that will weigh heavily in the favor of the smaller school, while crush the larger school. The Spartans will get punished much more severely for losing to their division rivals much more than they'll be rewarded for a win. However, only eight teams total make the playoffs between 1-A, 2-A and 3-A brackets, with the top two making the 1-A and 2-A tournament and the top four making the 3-A tournament, so spots are at a premium.
Prediction: York Catholic, Bermudian Springs, Delone Catholic, Fairfield, Biglerville, Littlestown, Hanover, York Tech
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org