Central York football goes through heat acclimation during the 2017 season.
If the York Suburban football team can have things its way this season, the Trojans would like to start better and finish better than it has the past two seasons.
Everything in between ... well that can remain just the same.
Fortunately, for the Trojans, they're the ones who hold the keys to putting together a more complete season, from start to finish, than in the past couple of years.
Both the 2015 and 2016 seasons played out identically for Suburban. There was a two-game losing streak to open the year, followed by eight consecutive victories and a York-Adams League Division II crown, and then a quick exit in the opening round of districts, capping 8-3 campaigns.
That type of year is successful for any program, but now the Trojans want more. It'll all start on Friday, Sept. 1, when they open the year at York Catholic, hoping to put behind them the woes that have plagued them during the first two weeks the last couple of seasons.
"For the last two years, we played against two really tough teams," senior wide receiver and safety Willie Batty said during Y-A League football media day on Aug. 1. "Those two games we hung in, except for the Northeastern one. We had some injuries and weren't really mentally prepared when we came out. But, it's a mindset after those games, we gotta get on track to do what we gotta do to compete the way we want to compete."
Bouncing back from mistakes: The start of this season won't be any easier than last year, with the same foes awaiting Suburban. If anything, Weeks 1 and 2 will be even more difficult because both games against the Fighting Irish and Northeastern will be on the road.
Batty admitted that the last two seasons, after the Trojans began the year 0-2, players took note of the small mistakes that were costing the team games and they improved on them. Little problems that might not seem extreme eventually pile up over the course of a game and can be the difference between a win and a loss.
Each year, Suburban has corrected those hiccups, which has led to it running the table in the regular season to capture back-to-back Division II titles and qualifying for districts.
"Once we get into that mindset, we don't want to be that losing team," senior fullback and linebacker Peter Groncki said at media day. "...When we get to that Week 3, we step back and realize that we need to fix something and that's where we break it down and we get motivated. ... We're a little slow off in those first two weeks, but hopefully that's not going to happen this year."
Maintaining expectations: If you can make an excuse for the Trojans being slow off the blocks the past two years, you can look at two separate reasons. In 2015, Suburban returned a very talented group that had something to prove after going 4-6 in 2014. However, head coach Andy Loucks was entering his first season with the team, so there may have been an adjustment period between players and coaches. The result was losses to Red Land and Northeastern.
Then, last season, many of the players who helped the Trojans go 8-3 overall in 2015 graduated, forcing Loucks to fill key spots with new players taking on new roles. The year started with losses to York Catholic and Northeastern. As in 2015, however, once the players found their grooves, Suburban began to roll.
Loucks will again need to piece together a depth chart that lost several starters from last season, including the second consecutive year he's dealt with his quarterback graduating. While Loucks wouldn't reveal who he had in mind to lead his offense at quarterback this season, he said much of his success at building a winning team has to do with creating a culture of high expectations, no matter how inexperienced the core is.
"You can't change your expectations," he said. "If you change your expectations, then the kids as a group will say, 'Well why are we not expected to be good this year?' ... So, you just have to go through the experiences that you've had and use that information to help you be successful."
Three-peat and more: The Trojans realize that, until another team successfully dethrones them from the top of Division II, they're still the favorites.
Achieving a three-peat of division titles is the first goal on the players' minds entering the year. After that, extending their season past the first round of districts is the next item on the list.
"The three-peat is what we want," Batty said. "But, the last two years we've gone to the playoffs, we've lost in the first round, so a big step for this senior class is we want to make it there and then move onto the second round. ... That's the only expectation that a lot of us have is making that three-peat and getting that first playoff win."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org