STROHECKER: York-Adams Division III teams will attempt to dethrone York Catholic
- York Catholic is the reigning Division III champ after going unbeaten in league play last year and 10-2 overall.
- The Fighting Irish graduated all-state running back Jakkar Kinard and all-state quarterback Dan Yokemick.
- Both Fairfield and Bermudian Springs return two-year starters at quarterback in Darian Mort and Chase Dull, respectively.
It doesn't matter which school you are or how big a program you have, every few years, each high school football team is hit by the graduation bug.
For bigger programs with larger player pools, coping with graduation losses is usually easier. For smaller schools, such the ones that make up pretty much all of York-Adams Division III, replacing a large number of players, especially key ones, can be a multi-year process.
So, when you have the horses, you must take advantage of it.
York Catholic football did that in 2016, winning the Division III crown and then following it up with a District 3 Class 2-A title, the second in program history. A first-round state exit ended the Fighting Irish season at 10-2, but they were the only Y-A team to win a playoff game last season, taking advantage of a strong senior class.
The headliners of the group that graduated included quarterback and defensive back Dan Yokemick and running back and defensive back Jakkar Kinard. The two earned all-state honors and shared the Division III Player of the Year award.
With those two in the backfield, York Catholic had an offense that seemingly scored at will. Realistically, had it not been for turnovers on three consecutive possessions in the state loss to Dunmore, the Fighting Irish could've seen their season last longer than it did.
York Catholic took advantage of what it had when it had it. Now, with two huge holes to fill in two key spots on both sides of the ball, it may be time for the other teams in Division III to rise to the occasion, especially if the Irish show signs of vulnerability.
If you were looking for a quick and easy choice to supplant York Catholic at the top of the division in 2017, that would fall to Bermudian Springs. The Eagles are always a contender in the division and return junior Chase Dull at quarterback, who will be starting for a third year.
However, Berm is also graduating a lot from last year's side that finished 8-3 overall and a game back of the Irish in the division. So, it's not as simple as just finding the next best team from last year and thinking it's next in line.
Truthfully, there really might not be a favorite in Division III for 2017. Last year, things went pretty much according to schedule, with the top-two preseason teams — York Catholic and the Eagles — finishing first and second, only separated by the Irish's Week 8 win over Berm.
This year, that just isn't the case. If the Eagles hold a slight advantage over the rest of the division, it's because of the experience at quarterback in Dull, as well as the fact that the Eagles are nearly always contenders.
You can't sleep on Littlestown, however, which surprised a lot of people last year by going 5-2 in the division and 8-3 overall, good enough to qualify for districts. The Thunderbolts should certainly factor into the conversation again this season.
Had it not been for a collarbone injury to Camden Mumma in Week 3 last year that forced him to miss the next five weeks, the Hanover Nighthawks may have finished better than .500 overall and 3-4 in the league. With a healthy Mumma returning for his senior season, he'll look to continue the high-flying Hanover offense that's been a stalwart in Division III for the past few years. If — and it's a big if — the Nighthawks can shore up the defense, they can definitely put themselves in the hunt for the division and look to finish above .500.
It's hard to see Fairfield having the numbers to contend with the rest of the division. Lack of depth hurt Fairfield last year. After beginning the season 4-0, the Green Knights faltered to an 0-6 finish, missing out on the District 3 1-A title game by one victory. With two-year starting quarterback Darian Mort returning for his senior campaign and an overall unit that head coach Darwin Seiler described as "the most athletic group he's ever had," at the very least Fairfield should find itself playing for the district championship.
After that, it's hard to see the likes of Delone Catholic, Biglerville or York Tech truly contending. Despite going 7-3 last season, the Squires lost 20 players to graduation and only return two starters. Unless there's an entire unit of stars just waiting to flourish, Delone looks destined to take a step back.
The Spartans were on the verge of a winning season for the first time in years last season, sitting at 4-3 seven weeks into the season. However, three consecutive losses ended that hope and, now, they must deal with significant losses. The Y-A League's leading receiver, Jordan Ray, graduated, while starting quarterback Josiah Smallwood transferred to York High in the offseason, leaving some doubt as to where the offense will come from in 2017.
As for the Canners, well, it's hard to hope for too much after going 0-10 last year. Any wins will be an obvious improvement, but to say Biglerville can go from winless to division or district contender seems a stretch.
Predicted order of finish: Bermudian Springs, York Catholic, Littlestown, Hanover, Fairfield, Delone Catholic, Biglerville, York Tech
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com