The celebration of the York Catholic football team, cheerleaders, band and parents was a special one on Saturday night.
The past three years, the Fighting Irish stepped on the field for a District 3 championship game. All three times, they had walked off in tears, heads down and defeated.
That's why Saturday was so memorable for everyone associated with the program — past, present and future. They all finally had an opportunity to celebrate a District 3 title after three straight years of disappointment, while also snapping a 34-year district title drought in the process.
It more than made up for the heartbreak the players felt the past three years.
That joyous feeling went beyond just the York Catholic program, however. It stretched all throughout York County and the entire York-Adams League. The celebratory sentiment that the Fighting Irish experienced Saturday was a much-needed change of pace from the rest of the weekend. It had been one filled with the same tears and sadness that York Catholic had felt the past three seasons.
Seven Y-A League teams qualified for the District 3 playoffs in five of the six classes and, until the Fighting Irish lifted their title trophy after a 51-21 triumph over Newport, all the Y-A League fans knew this weekend was loss.
York Catholic was the only area team to play on Saturday, with the six others — Red Lion, Central York, Northeastern, York Suburban, Littlestown and Bermudian Springs — beginning their own quests for District 3 supremacy on Friday night. That's also when it ended for those teams.
Seven Y-A League teams made the playoffs and now only the Fighting Irish remain.
Each team has its own pack of loyal supporters, but knowing the struggling history that Y-A League teams encounter come district time, especially in the big-school classes, the entire league should be pulling for each other. So, when the Bobcats fought back so valiantly in the second half to grab a lead, only to see it disappear in the final minute on a gutsy two-point conversion by Cocalico and get upset, 25-24, it was a blow to the entire league.
The same can be said about the Lions, one of two unbeatens in District 3 heading into the playoffs. Rarely did Red Lion trail all season, but a second-quarter pick-six by Central Dauphin East put the Division I champs behind for good. Red Lion ultimately saw its season end at 10-1 after Friday's 13-7 setback. It was a shock to the entire league.
The Panthers, for as great a story as they were this year, going from 3-7 in 2015 to 7-3 this year, were just out-matched by Wilson, 55-23. The Trojans saw their eight-game winning streak halted in humbling fashion by Lampeter-Strasburg, 48-0. And the Thunberbolts and Eagles just didn't stack up when facing the top two teams in 3-A. Bermudian lost to Wyomissing, 24-7, and Littlestown was dominated by unbeaten Middletown, 49-14.
All of it led to tears from players and disappointment among the fans around the entire league.
In order for the league to gain respect throughout the rest of District 3, there needs to be postseason success. Not just from one team, but from a host of them, and it needs to be consistent.
With this past weekend's results, the perception of the Y-A League, when stacked up against teams from the Mid-Penn Conference or Lancaster-Lebanon League, didn't change.
At least on one occasion, however, fans of the league could experience something good. York County has a team headed to states, and even though it only took one win to get there, it's a state-bound team nonetheless.
York Catholic ended an otherwise bleak weekend of high school football on a high note for the Y-A League. Now, it's carrying the mantle for the rest of the league as the only remaining team still playing out of 23.
The Fighting Irish will face District 2 champion Dunmore at 7 p.m. Friday at Hazleton High School in the first round of the PIAA Class 2-A state tournament. For however long their season continues, supporters of the Y-A League need to rally behind them.
Because, had it not been for York Catholic on Saturday night, this would've been one completely forgetabble weekend of local football.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org