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With first game looming, West York football team puts finishing touches on game plan

Patrick Strohecker
York Dispatch
  • West York begins the 2017 season this Friday in "Week 0" at Governor Mifflin.
  • The Bulldogs will now have a bye week in Week 6 of the regular season.
  • West York is coming off a 2-8 season in 2016.

For nearly all of the high school football teams around District 3, this Friday night, Aug. 25, will be the final one for the next 2 1/2 months without a regular-season game.

West York Bulldogs running back Ay'Juan Marshall makes a leaping catch during practice Tuesday, August 22, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

West York won't be among those teams.

Instead, this Friday night marks the start to the Bulldogs' regular season. Branded "Week 0," it will signal the season opener for select teams, with the Bulldogs among them.

While most other teams will take part in their final scrimmage games, West York will travel to face Governor Mifflin for its regular-season opener. It's a switch from last year, when the two teams met in Week 5.

"The reason I did it, is because it got all of our non-divisional games out of the way early," head coach Jeremy Jones said. "Not to say that they're easy games. The rankings came out and Governor Mifflin and Manheim Central are in top 15 in 5-A and Central York is probably one of the teams to beat in (York-Adams) Division I and Dallastown is a team never to be taken lightly."

The move to playing Week 0 has its positives and negatives for a young Bulldogs team.

COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF: A preview look at the 2017 West York Bulldogs football team

The negative is obvious. With one fewer week to prepare, the team is forced to be more intense and precise with every single practice. West York doesn't have the benefit of an extra scrimmage or four or five extra practices next week, like most other teams in the area, so this week's workouts take on more significance. Of course, Governor Mifflin is in the same situation.

"We've been doing a lot of two-a-days and that's why a lot of the coaches have been pushing us more," junior wide receiver and outside linebacker Andrew Lamanna said. "It also gets us a lot more excited because we get bored of getting ready for the games and then it comes quick because once the season comes around, it flies by."

Cleaning up problem areas: Jones said the only real acceleration there's been to the game plan is focusing more on special teams than usual at this point in the preseason.

He was also candid in his assessment of his team thus far and its preparation for the opener. After a scrimmage against Northern York on Saturday, Aug. 19, there were plenty of areas that needed to be cleaned up. It was the first time Jones could see his first offense and defense square off against another team's firsts, and there's room for improvement.

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This Bulldogs' team is young, with the majority of its key position players still just juniors. Realistically, West York is probably a season away from being a true threat to make the district playoffs. But, within the division, it can compete. 

If there's any positives to the last couple of seasons that haven't produced a lot of wins, including going 2-8 in 2016, it's the fact that many of those juniors on the teams have seen more varsity time than most players their age. So, while the Bulldogs might not look like much, there's optimism that they can still turn some heads.

"It's tough being young because you're always going against older kids," Lamanna said. "But, that's pretty much been our whole lives, but we get used to it and we have a lot of experience and we use it to our advantage."

Time to rest: West York will need to grow up fast with a brutal non-league schedule awaiting it.

Of the four non-divisional match-ups awaiting the Bulldogs in the first four weeks of the season, two are against District 3 6-A schools and two are against 5-A programs. 

But, what West York will get out of starting early is a bye week in the middle of the schedule. The Bulldogs will play six games to start the year, have a week off and then close out the year with their final four games.

The bye week comes Oct. 6, which is Week 6 of the regular season. At that point, West York will have already played two York-Adams Division II games, so the break will provide it with a much-needed opportunity to recharge the batteries for the final stretch.

"Before that week, we play Eastern York and Kennard-Dale, so that's two league games, and then we get a bye week," junior running back and safety Ay'Jaun Marshall said. "Then, we get the bulk of our league schedule, like the Dover, the (York) Suburban, the Susky, the Gettysburg, the teams that will really compete in the league and I think that bye week will be good for us because it'll give us another week to prep for Suburban."

West York Bulldogs wide receiver Andrew Lamanna reaches out to catch the football during practice Tuesday, August 22, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

First-game jitters: There's also an added confidence that playing this week will help the Bulldogs when they take on cross-town rival Central York.

In past years, the two teams would always square off in Week 1. They'll do the same this season, but West York will already have a real game under its belt, which Marshall believes will benefit his team, since it will already have first-game jitters out of its system.

The Bulldogs, however, can't focus on the Panthers, or the bye week, or the league schedule.

They need to focus on Governor Mifflin, when almost every other team is anxiously awaiting for its shot under the real Friday night lights.

Fairfield also gets underway: The only other Y-A team to play on "Week 0" will be the Fairfield Green Knights. 

The Green Knights closed out last season with six consecutive losses after opening the year 4-0. The slide prevented them from playing in the District 3 1-A championship game.

Now, Fairfield opens up play against Marian Catholic out of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. Tamaqua is out of District 11 and played for the District 11 1-A championship last season, finishing the year 6-5.

Kickoff is 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25, at Marian Catholic.

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohcker@yorkdispatch.com