HEISER: York-Adams football teams have motivation
- No York-Adams team is ranked among the state's best this season.
- No York-Adams player is ranked among the state's top-60 recruits.
- No York-Adams team has ever advanced to a PIAA state title game.
It's not hard to exceed expectations when there are none to begin with.
That's the situation that the York-Adams League football teams find themselves in.
Beyond the borders of York and Adams counties, no one is expecting much of anything from the gridiron programs in the local league.
For instance, Pennlive.com came out with its preseason state rankings earlier this week.
Across six classes, there was not a single York-Adams team mentioned. Not in any of the six top-10 lists, and not even among 31 programs listed as teams to watch.
Pennlive.com isn't alone in its thinking, either.
MaxPreps.com rates every team in Pennsylvania, from No. 1 through No. 590.
The top-ranked York-Adams team in the MaxPreps.com preseason rankings is Northeatern at No. 86. Dallastown is next at No. 160 and Red Lion follows at No. 171. No other York-Adams team is rated higher than No. 235 (York Catholic), while eight local teams are ranked in the bottom 100.
The lack of respect isn't limited to just York-Adams teams, either. The individual players in these parts aren't getting much love, either.
A quick check of two top recruiting websites (247Sports.com and Scout.com) revealed that not a single York-Adams player was rated among the 60 top recruits in Pennsylvania for the class of 2017.
Nothing new: Of course, this is nothing new. The York-Adams League has never garnered much football respect across the state. That's what happens when you consistently struggle come playoff time, especially in the marquee big-school classes.
And the York-Adams big schools have struggled mightily in the playoffs. There's no way to argue that point.
Under the old four-class format, a York-Adams team never won a District 3-AAAA crown and earned just one AAA title (West York in 2008). And no York-Adams school has ever even made a PIAA state championship game in any class.
It's enough to give the local teams a severe inferiority complex.
Motivation should not be an issue: So what should the local coaches do?
They should make sure their players know all about the snubs. Then, they should take those slights and transform them into massive chips to put on the shoulders of each and every player.
They should turn every non-league, early-season contest into an opportunity to prove the outside critics wrong.
Disrespect, after all, can be an excellent motivator.
Because of that, the York-Adams League teams are, in some ways, in an enviable position.
When little is expected of you, it's nearly impossible to perform below expectations. It can also make the opposition feel a little too complacent, a little too comfortable, a little too confident.
That's when upsets can and do happen.
Playoff performance will be key: Still, while some impressive early-season, non-league victories would be nice, the York-Adams teams won't be able to garner true respect throughout the district and state until they start to perform better in the postseason, especially in the high-profile, big-school classes.
That may be a little easier to do now with a six-class playoff system. Obviously, reclassification will offer two more chances to win a District 3 title. But more than that, the large disparity in enrollment numbers has now disappeared everywhere except in Class 6-A. That means, for the most part, the York-Adams teams will face schools of very similar size in the postseason.
Still, it will remain extremely challenging for the local big schools to break through in the District 3 playoffs.
In Class 6-A, Cumberland Valley, Central Dauphin and Wilson are huge road blocks.
In Class 5-A, the road to the title will likely go through perennial power Manheim Central.
And in Class 4-A, Bishop McDevitt always boasts a ton of NCAA Division I talent.
Winning a big-school District 3 title won't be easy, of course, but nothing worth achieving is ever easy.
Battling stiff odds: It starts with the first step. The York-Adams League teams need to pull off a few early-season upsets against their more highly regarded neighbors from the Mid-Penn, Lancaster-Lebanon and Berks leagues.
That may instill the confidence needed later to excel in the November playoff crucible.
The odds are stacked heavily against the local football schools. History tells us that much.
But motivation shouldn't be a problem.
The York-Adams programs have received plenty of that already, and the season hasn't even started.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.