I'm writing this column on the morning of Sunday, Nov. 12, the day after the high school football season for the York-Adams League came to an end.
It shouldn't be this way. Even for the Y-A League, it usually isn't this way.
A year ago, football around the league ended the Friday before Thanksgiving. Still not great, but more respectable.
Which is why this 2017 postseason performance signifies a low point for the league's perception around the rest of District 3.
Historically, the Y-A League has never fared well in the district playoffs, especially in the big-school classifications. This was only my third football season covering the Y-A League, but in that short amount of time, I've come to realize this notion is very true.
Over the past three seasons, the Y-A League has had 24 district qualifiers, an average of eight per season. In 2015, eight teams qualified for the playoffs over the four classifications In 2016, after Pennsylvania expanded to six classes, seven made the playoffs. And this year was the high-water mark, with nine teams qualifying for districts, with at least one in all six classes.
For comparison's sake, only 32 teams make the playoffs over the six classifications, so more than 25 percent of the district playoffs were made up of Y-A League teams. Surely, one or two teams had to find a win over this first weekend of play and advance to the second round of the postseason.
In 2015, four teams advanced to the second round of their respective playoff brackets, but didn't go further than that, compiling a record of 4-8. Last season, after six teams lost on the first Friday, York Catholic salvaged a dismal weekend by winning the District 3 2-A title and advancing to the first round of states. However, the Fighting Irish wouldn't get past that stage, losing to Dunmore, leading to a 1-7 postseason for the Y-A League.
Going 0-9: If that seemed bad, it would only be upstaged by this year's performance, which saw all nine teams that made the playoffs lose their opening games, promptly bringing the football season to an end. Again, York Catholic had the chance to salvage the weekend and give fans of the area something to look forward to next Friday. But, a rematch with Newport in the 2-A championship game played out completely opposite to how last year's went, losing 26-7.
That's a 5-24 mark in postseason play over the past three seasons, with no team winning more than one game in a given playoff "run."
What makes this season so much worse is the fact that, out of the nine losses, only two games were truly competitive. Only No. 5 Dallastown's 31-28 loss to No. 4 Hempfield in the 6-A quarterfinals and No. 3 Littlestown's 13-9 defeat to No. 2 Wyomissing in the 3-A semifinals were decided by one score. Both teams lost in the final minute, a sign that one or two breaks in the other direction could've sent them through to the next round.
However, two close defeats did little to make up for the other seven losses suffered during the weekend. In the other match-ups featuring Y-A teams, the average margin of defeat was 32.1 points per game, meaning no game was truly competitive and only accentuated the gap between the top teams in the Y-A League and the top teams in the other leagues that are part of District 3.
Also, it should be worth noting that, of the nine teams that made the playoffs out of the league, only two were higher seeds. Susquehannock was the No. 4 seed in Class 4-A and hosted No. 5 East Pennsboro, while York Catholic was the top seed in 2-A and was the "home team" in its neutral-site game against Newport.
A step behind: A performance like this will only stoke the fire that the Y-A League is a step, or more, behind the rest of the leagues in District 3. To find a little light, one must sometimes fall into the darkest pits of despair, so maybe that's what this 2017 season will be for the Y-A League.
It was truly a postseason to forget for fans of the league. Unfortunately, when next Friday rolls around and we're left with no team to follow while a slew of games are being contested, it'll just remind us of this past weekend of losses.
Don't worry, fans. High school basketball and winter sports get underway on Friday, Dec. 8.
Just four weeks away.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org