For first time in long time, Susquehannock in contention to win division football title
- Susquehannock is off to a 4-2 start and 2-0 in Division II play.
- The Warriors haven't won a Division II title since 2006 and haven't had a winning season since 2007.
- Since turning to Hunter Sentz at quarterback, Susquehannock is 3-1 on the season.
The name Chaz Powell holds a lot of weight around the Susquehannock football community.
The former star athlete shined for the Warriors more than a decade ago before going off to do a little bit of everything for Penn State.
It comes as no surprise that, while Powell was at Susquehannock, he helped the program to some of its best seasons in program history.
Perhaps a major reason why Powell's days as a Warrior are so memorable is because there hasn't been much to get excited about with the program since then.
During a three-year stretch from 2004-06 when Powell was showcased at Susquehannock, the program won three consecutive York-Adams League Division II crowns. The teams went unbeaten in division play during that time and 28-5 overall.
In the 10 seasons since, there's been just one winning season in program history, which came in 2007, when the Warriors went 6-4. So, that's likely why Warriors fans are so excited about this year's squad, which is looking to put a halt to the losing seasons that have plagued the program in the last decade.
At 4-2 overall and just a half-game out of a tie for the Division II lead with four games to play, players, coaches and fans might finally have something to celebrate at season's end for the first time since the Powell era.
"We just work so hard that everyone's goal is to win the division, and it hasn't been done in years," senior running back Alec Kramer said. "...Going into (the season), we've been working hard all summer and it pays off during games."
Rough 2016: Before the 2015 season, Steve Wiles took over the Susquehannock program, which was coming off a dismal 1-9 season in 2014.
He helped guide the team to a 5-5 overall mark and respectable 4-2 record in division play in his first year, setting up some optimism for brighter days. Despite having talented players last season, the momentum didn't quite carry over. The Warriors stumbled back to their old ways, going 3-7 overall.
Wiles, who enjoyed success in previous stints at Hanover and Delone Catholic, attributes that to a relatively young team which didn't have a ton of seniors on it. Still, Susquehannock graduated one of the Y-A League's best running backs in Jack Allred and quarterback Chase Summers. Having to replace dynamic pieces such as that didn't bode well for this year's group. Another down year looked on its way in Glen Rock.
"This senior class, quite a few of them played as sophomores, so they got a taste of varsity football at a pretty young age," Wiles said. "And our leadership by that group, you gotta have good leadership to be successful."
This year's senior class definitely has that, but that extra jolt of skill came from an unexpected member of the senior class.
Boost from Sentz: Midway through the third game of the season against Biglerville, Wiles decided to make a change at quarterback.
Kenny Rhyne was tabbed as the Week 1 starter, but after a 1-1 start through two weeks and an unimpressive first half against Biglerville, Wiles turned to Sentz to step in at quarterback. Sentz's ability as a dual-threat QB brought a different dynamic to the Warriors' offense and led them to a 28-12 victory. The job has been Sentz's ever since.
Not being named the starter until after Week 3 isn't what makes Sentz such a surprise for Susquehannock. It's the fact that Sentz wasn't even part of this team for the past two seasons. Now, his sudden impact has made the Warriors a contender this season.
"I know he's a very athletic kid," Wiles said about Sentz. "...You never know for sure. But, his athleticism was there. I knew he had the potential to be a pretty special quarterback and he's proven it so far."
Sentz played football up through ninth grade, but quit for two years during his sophomore and junior years. He isn't the biggest kid, listed at an even 6 feet, but said he was even smaller back then.
Still, he knew he'd regret not playing his senior season, so he decided to come back. His impact has been noticeable.
"We've been fundamentally sound," Sentz said. "We've been out-working other teams. We condition a lot. Our line's been playing really well and they're making a lot of holes and our running backs are getting through there."
Thinking of a division crown: Sentz is 3-1 as the team's starting quarterback, which includes a pair of Division II victories over Gettysburg and York Suburban.
At 4-2 overall, Susquehannock is currently clinging to the eighth and final District 3 Class 4-A playoff spot in the latest power ratings. The Warriors, at 2-0 in Division II, are also keeping pace with Dover (3-0) for the Division II crown.
With the Eagles playing their final non-league game of the season this Friday night, Oct. 13, a win for Susquehannock on the road against Eastern York would pull it even with Dover for first place in the division standings.
If both teams continued to win, it would set up a Week 10 showdown between the two in Glen Rock to decide the Division II crown.
It's been a decade since the last time fans of the Warriors had something like this to get excited about.
"That'd be the game of my life," Kramer said. "For it to be us and Dover, Senior Night, at home, put it all on the line in my last year."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org