STROHECKER: York High is back and doesn't appear to be going away

Patrick Strohecker
York Dispatch
  • York High is 3-0 on the season as it prepares for Division I play.
  • The Bearcats have a steady mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen that make up their core.
  • All starting members of the York High offensive line will return for next season

Back in August, I found myself in Russ Stoner's office.

Dayjure Stewart (1) celebrates with a teammate during York High vs Cedar Cliff football action at Smalls Field in York City, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. York High would win the game 48-28. Dawn J. Sagert photo

I was there working on a preseason story on the York High football team, but after wrapping up the interview, I decided to start looking ahead to the regular season. So, I asked the Bearcats' coach for some information on the team's Week 1 opponent, Reading. Nothing special, just any standout players it might have.

Stoner's response to me was, "They're beatable."

Of course Reading was. What else would Stoner say? That his York High team couldn't hang?

Then, however, he followed up his statement on the Red Knights with an even bolder remark: "I think we can win all our games."

Now that seemed like a stretch. Keep in mind, this was a Bearcats program coming off a 1-9 season in 2016, which just happened to be the program's only win in the past two seasons.

Going from 1-9 to potentially 10-0? Yeah, right ... right?

Well, here we are, three weeks into the season, about to begin York-Adams Division I play, and so far, Stoner's prediction is still holding up.

York High backed up its coach's bold claim by defeating Reading in Week 1 and then solidified that win with a road victory at J.P. McCaskey in Week 2. Perhaps most impressive, however, was the team's win this past Friday night, Sept. 15, over Cedar Cliff.

The Colts are a Mid-Penn Conference program rich with winning tradition and, after a back-and-forth opening quarter, the Bearcats absolutely steamrolled Cedar Cliff, to the tune of a 48-28 win.

"Everybody in York County knows I'm cocky," Stoner said following the win over the Colts. "I've said this before, and it's not an arrogance, but if you coach football, basketball, baseball or swimming, your goal is to win them all. I'm not changing. Our goal is to win them all."

So far, nothing about York High's play has indicated that it can't. Every time the team has faced some sort of adversity, it's responded.

Most recently, against Cedar Cliff, it looked like the defense was going to hold back the offense. Both the Colts and Bearcats traded touchdowns in the first eight minutes of the first quarter, with Cedar Cliff leading 21-20 after the opening frame.

The York High offense was doing its job, but the defense wasn't holding up its end. Then, things flipped, and over the final 40 minutes, the Bearcats' defense allowed just seven points, while the offense continued to roll, ending the game with 28 unanswered points.

The pieces are in place: The offense has all the weapons a team needs, with arguably the best backfield duo in the York-Adams League in Football Championship Subdivision-recruit Khalid Dorsey and Dayjure Stewart. On Friday night, the two combined for the majority of the team's 420 rushing yards.

Then, there's Robert Rideout, the junior all-around player who showcased his play on both sides of the ball. He hauled in a 47-yard touchdown reception from Micah Anciso, while also nabbing two interceptions, including a 63-yard pick-six that put York High in the lead for good in the third quarter.

At quarterback, Stoner has his pick of who he wants to put behind center, with Anciso, Josiah Smallwood and Seth Bernstein all with starting experience. So far, Anciso has been the go-to guy and has done a strong job managing the offense. Against the Colts, he ran and passed for a touchdown.

Stoner, however, would never let his skill players earn individual praise without the mention of his offensive line. That's a group that has put in the most time to improve from last year to this year, and it's showing. It's a young group, but is showing maturity, even though there isn't one senior in the crop.

That's where things start to get scary for the rest of the Division I. The bulk of the Bearcats' core will all be back next season. Anciso, Smallwood and Dorsey will graduate — all big losses — but for the most part, what you see now, is what you'll see next season. 

York High head coach Russ Stoner (second from right) talks to his players during a timeout during York High vs Cedar Cliff football action at Smalls Field in York City, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. York High is 3-0 on the year entering Division I play. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Gearing up for Division I: This start hasn't been anything short of impressive for York High, considering how irrelevant the program has been in recent seasons.

Now, the true test will be how the team can respond in a tough Division I, especially when the Bearcats are no longer an afterthought, but instead firmly on the radars of all its rivals.

Next week will be the first of many tests, when the Bearcats travel to face reigning D-I champ Red Lion. The Lions know a thing or two about going undefeated in the regular season, going 10-0 last year, before losing in the opening round of the District 3 Class 6-A playoffs.

In addition, Red Lion received a forfeit last Friday against Chambersburg, essentially giving the Lions a bye week to get healthy and prepare for York High. 

The Bearcats have already proven many doubters wrong with their start to the year, but that's all it's been — a start. Now, it's about how they finish, and it'll only get tougher from here.

"It's going to be a tough road," Stoner said. "But, if they keep doing what they're doing and they keep buying into it and doing the academic piece and the behavior piece, then, yeah, I like our chances."

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