It's hard to believe that we're more than halfway through the 2016 York-Adams League football season, but here we are.
With only four games remaining in the regular season for the 23 Y-A League teams, all have played enough contests to really show us what they're made of. That goes for the good and the bad.
For the sake of this column, however, let's focus on the good.
The three divisional races are heating up, with at least three teams within one game of the lead in each division. However, also for the sake of this column, we're going to look at reasons why the five teams that currently hold the outright lead or co-lead in each division have what it takes to continue their impressive play and finish where they are right now — on top.
Division I: Red Lion might be the safest bet among the division leaders to finish with a title.
To start, the Lions are the only remaining undefeated team in the league, boasting a perfect 6-0 record. More impressive, however, is how they've gone about getting there.
Red Lion is winning by more than four touchdowns per game, outscoring its opponents 237-65. That's 39.5 points per game on offense, while only allowing 10.8 on defense.
Not impressed? Well, the Lions also lead the Y-A League in rushing, averaging more than 350 yards per game on the ground. Red Lion also doesn't turn over the ball. It's only coughed the ball up three times in six games and holds a plus-five turnover differential.
The way the Lions have dispatched opponents this year, there doesn't look to be a spot on their remaining schedule where they'll get knocked off until possibly Week 10. when they host rival Dallastown, which is lurking at 5-1 overall and 2-1 in division play.
Division II: This is one of two divisions where there are two unbeaten teams remaining in the division. Aside from the Lions, the two D-II leaders are probably the two hottest teams in the league.
Let's start with Eastern York, which has a half-game lead over York Suburban in the division. The Golden Knights have rattled off three straight wins after beginning the year 0-3. The Golden Knights still have a minus-five point differential, but much of that came in their first two games. Eastern nearly knocked off Littlestown in Week 3 and that seemed to be the turning point in its season.
It probably took time for the players to adjust to a new system under first-year coach Jeff Mesich, but they've adapted and are on a three-game winning streak, which includes thumping Gettysburg on Friday night, 31-13, on the road in a game of two unbeaten teams in Division II.
The Trojans are also playing great football right now, reeling off four consecutive victories after an 0-2 start.
The only thing holding Suburban back from being in an even tie with the Golden Knights for the division lead is the fact that it's played one fewer division game, which will eventually even out.
The Trojans have the second-longest winning streak going in the league right now and have won their last eight Division II games after going 6-0 in division play last year.
Suburban is also the only team in the division with a positive point differential at plus-31.
If both teams continue to roll, the Division II crown will come down to their Week 10 meeting. It doesn't get much better than that.
Division III: This was a logjam at the top and still is, but as of right now, it's starting to gain some clarity.
York Catholic is 3-0 in division play and 5-1 overall. The Fighting Irish took down previously unbeaten Littlestown on Friday night to put the Thunderbolts a game back.
Catholic is tied with the Golden Knights and Bermudian Springs for the third-longest winning streak in the league at three games.
Still, why should we think the Irish can hold on to their co-lead and win the Division III title?
To start, they have the most dynamic running back in the Y-A League in Jakkar Kinard. Kinard led the league in rushing last season and is back near the top this season. He was the central figure in helping Catholic knock off Littlestown on Friday and anytime the Fighting Irish need a huge play, they turn to him. Also, Catholic's two biggest games — the Thunderbolts on Friday night and against the Eagles in Week 8 — are at home, which is always worth taking into account.
Bermudian Springs also joins the Fighting Irish in a tie for the Division III lead and has also won three games in a row. The Eagles will continue to be a factor in this division because, so far, they've shown that they're not outmatched by any opponent.
In its only loss, Bermudian Springs lost by four points to unbeaten Shippensburg. That's a result that could've gone either way. However, in their five wins, the Eagles have outscored teams by 97 points, or 19.6 points per game. That should continue through Week 7 and then Bermudian will have its gut-check time when it travels to York Catholic in Week 8 and then hosts Littlestown in Week 9. The Eagles' season will come down to those two games.
There's still plenty of time for some movement at the top of each division, especially with how congested all three are.
However, all five teams that are still unbeaten in division play have shown us reasons why they can win their respective divisions, so don't be surprised if they do.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org