Central York's crucial York-Adams League Division I win over Spring Grove on Friday night wasn't over for more than 15 minutes and Panthers head coach Josh Oswalt was already looking ahead to Red Lion.
He understood the magnitude of the Panthers' 35-21 win against the Rockets. It kept their division title hopes alive and also their District 3 6-A playoff hopes in tact. What it also did, however, was set up Oswalt's team with a chance to play in a de facto Division I title game this upcoming Friday when it plays host to the Lions.
Red Lion vs. Central, however, isn't the only game on the Week 8 slate that could ultimately determine a division champion. Also on the schedule is Bermudian Springs at York Catholic in a Division III clash that's been weeks in the making.
That is the type of drama that every fan loves to see in the final few weeks of the regular season. Friday's big games will surely be the co-main events for the Week 8 card.
Division I: The fact that we're seven weeks into the football season and the Panthers are in a spot where they control their own destiny to grab at least a share of the Division I crown is a bit shocking.
A year ago, Central was a 3-7 team and went just 2-5 in division play. It's already surpassed both totals this season.
Still, when the schedule came out and the Panthers and Lions were slated for a Week 8 collision, few expected it to mean much. If anything, it shaped up to be a gimme game for Red Lion, a program that entered the season with Division I title expectations that were as lofty as anybody's. The Panthers, well, they looked like a team that would simply just try to slightly improve from last year's down season.
Now, this game is hardly a sure victory for the Lions (7-0 overall, 4-0 Division I). In fact, it's arguably, the biggest game Central (5-2, 3-1) will play all regular season and possibly in multiple regular seasons. Cenral is only now starting to garner the respect that it's rightfully earned. With a win over Red Lion and then wins in Week 9 and Week 10, the Panthers will assure themselves of at least owning a share of the Division I championship.
For the Lions, however, this is the next step in trying to remain the final unbeaten team in the Y-A League and also District 3 6-A. Red Lion can still determine its own fate in claiming an outright Division I crown.
Division III: Unlike with the Division I clash, the match-up between the Fighting Irish and Eagles was circled from Week 1 as the date that could determine the Division III champion.
Both teams entered the season as favorites in a division that, quite frankly, actually became a bit tougher than most expected, with the emergence of Fairfield, Littlestown and York Tech as solid programs after some down seasons.
Still, all of those teams have at least one division loss, while Bermudian Springs and York Catholic remain unbeaten atop the division standings at 4-0. Both teams are also 6-1 overall. Of course, all of that will change on Friday.
For the Fighting Irish, this will be their second big test in three weeks, dating back to their Week 6 triumph over the Thunderbolts. That is still Littlestown's only loss. With that game and now this Week 8 tilt both on home turf, there's no time better than now for York Catholic to continue to roll along and control its own path to a Division III crown.
As for the Eagles, you could argue that their season won't truly begin until they take the field against the Fighting Irish. That's because, if Bermudian wants to win the Division III title, it'll all come down to Week 8 and Week 9. A win over York Catholic will be a good start in moving into sole possession of first place. Still, Bermudian must then knock off Littlestown at home the following week. Two wins in back-to-back weeks and the rest of the division will be looking up at the Eagles.
It all starts with this upcoming Friday night.
Before a season begins, everyone always looks ahead and searches for late-year match-ups that could have championship implications.
In Week 8, we'll get two of them — one that was anticipated and another that comes as a surprise.
Either way, if this upcoming Friday night was a pay-per-view fight card, there would be no main event. Just two co-mains — and that's an even better scenario.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com