Coach Russ Stoner and the rest of his coaching staff celebrate with the York High Bearcats' football team after a big victory vs. Dallastown during the 2017 season. Elijah Armold, York Dispatch
For a high school football player, there's nothing like the experience of putting on a team jersey for the first time in a new season.
For nearly every player who participated in York-Adams League Football Media Day in both Hanover and York on Thursday, the response was unanimous.
“It’s just a great feeling,” one player from Spring Grove said, while another from Fairfield echoed that response. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Along with the good feelings that all of the players shared about the experience, they also, not surprisingly, shared a common sense of optimism heading into a new season.
That goes for teams such as York High (9-2 overall, 6-1 Division I) and Dallastown (8-3, 6-1), who are pegged to again contend for the top spot in D-I, as well as teams such as Spring Grove (1-9, 1-6 D-I) and York Tech (0-10, 0-7 D-III), who are both coming off disappointing 2017 campaigns.
At this point, everyone feels like they have a good shot to meet or exceed expectations with the opening night of the season looming on Friday, Aug. 24.
“It’s been exciting to be a Bearcat again,” York High coach Russell Stoner said after his team soared from 1-9 in 2016 to 9-2 in 2017. “We’ve worked hard and I’d say this is probably the best offseason that we’ve had since I’ve been here. We’re averaging about 55 guys at workouts.”
“Overall, I’ve been thrilled and excited with the amount of talent that we have and the amount of leadership that we have,” said Dallastown coach Ron Miller, who is embarking on his first season at the helm for the Wildcats. “The transition from coach (Kevin) Myers to me has been pretty smooth.”
While coaches such as Stoner and Miller are looking to meet or exceed a pretty high bar already, Spring Grove's Kyle Sprenkle and York Tech's Charlie Troxell are both looking for rebound seasons.
“Last year, being 1-9, that just wasn’t acceptable to any of us,” Sprenkle said. “I think that we have a good core group of guys that endured that 1-9 season last year and are coming back hungry for a better season.”
“I’m so excited about the staff and group of kids that we have,” said Troxell, who can concentrate 100 percent on coaching now that he retired from teaching after 44 years. “Now we’re not worrying about wins or whatever, but I think that the taste in your mouth after you go 0-10 … you want to get out there and smack somebody.”
PIAA reaction: For most of the coaches surveyed Thursday, there was also a sense of optimism about the hot-button topic of the day: boundary vs. nonboundary schools in the PIAA, and the possibility of having separate state tournaments.
One of the more vocal coaches in favor of changing the way things are done is South Western coach Chris Heilman.
“League play I’m OK with, but when we get to the playoffs I think that it’s something that needs to be looked at,” said Heilman, whose team competes at the Class 5-A level. “Especially when you’re looking at teams where 90 percent of the kids are coming from out of state because you’re not really playing a Pennsylvania state championship. There’s multiple things (that need addressed)….there’s no black and white here.”
Sprenkle, whose team also competes in 5-A, boiled the whole conversation down to one point — fairness.
“Coming from a public school, I think it would just make more sense if we competed against schools that have the same type of rules that we do,” Sprenkle said. “Just make it a more fair competition. And if we ever get to the point where we’re competing for a state title, I want to have the same advantages and rules as the opponent that I’m going up against.”
Delone coach Corey Zortman, who is one of two coaches in the league from a private school, understands both sides of the issue. The Squire coach, however, cautioned against making any drastic changes to the status quo.
“I understand that no coach wants to lose talented athletes, but I really do feel like parents should have the right to choose what they feel is best for their kids,” he said. “I always say this about our program — it comes down to fit. In our case, we’re a Catholic school and it’s a fit for these guys, but it may not be a fit for others. So I just feel we need to allow the parents to choose what they feel is best for their children.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.