For the past few seasons, the offensive side of the ball has garnered much of the attention for the York Catholic football program.
With standouts such as quarterback Kyle Dormer last year, Jakkar Kinard and Dan Yokemick in 2016 and Hakeem Kinard (Jakkar's older brother) in 2014, the Irish have been blessed with superior offensive talent.
While that may still be the case heading into 2018, it seems like all of the excitement this time around for the Fighting Irish is focused on the other side of the ball.
"It's our defense (that should excel)," senior running-back/linebacker Drew Snelbaker said during York-Adams League Football Media Day last week.
"I have to agree," senior offensive/defensive lineman Jarred Kohl added. "Our defense is always the one to set the tone at the beginning of the game and our offense just seems to follow. Coach (Eric) DePew always says that we're F.A.T. — fast, athletic and tough."
The Irish were a middle-of-the-pack defensive squad in 2017, allowing 21.1 points per game. Snelbaker and Kohl expect a better unit this season. In fact, the two Irish standouts were downright giddy at the potential of their defense this year. They saw it first hand during their team camp back in July.
"We played against Central York at Millersville and I think that was the most energy that we've ever had," Kohl said. "Like, we kicked the crap out of them and that's a 6-A school. So if we can keep our energy high, we know that was a 6-A school that we just beat."
Doing it during a camp is one thing. Doing it under the bright lights on a Friday night is something else. Still, Kohl and Snelbaker didn't back down about their high assessments, even if it was only playing touch football.
"It's 11 on 11 or 10 on 11," Kohl said. "You basically run 10 plays and they only completed two passes and they were sacked on both of the passes that were completed, but we let them throw it anyway. So, yeah, we pretty much man-handled them."
Opponents will need to look out if the same holds true in the regular season. That's because there aren't many teams the caliber of a Central York, which boasts a NCAA Division I-caliber quarterback in Cade Pribula, in Division III this year.
Football success is nothing new for the Irish, who shared the D-III title a season ago with Littlestown at 6-1 and finished 8-3 overall, including an appearance in the District 3 Class 2-A title game. York Catholic has appeared in five straight District 3 championship games, including winning a 2-A title in 2016.
York Tech: While the Irish are amped up about their defense, the York Tech Spartans are excited about their team chemistry.
Never before in the program's history has Tech booked a team camp during the summer. But this year, coach Charlie Troxell signed up the team to participate for a weekend workout at Albright College in Reading.
"We decided to play spring football and we've never done that before at Tech," Troxell said. "We also went to camp at Albright, which was just a super experience. It was great for our kids. We wanted to bring them together."
Togetherness is something that most programs can produce organically. In most Y-A programs, the players have competed together for years.
In years past at Tech, many teammates were only introduced to one another on the first day of preseason workouts. That was something that Troxell knew had to change if he wanted to steer the ship back in the right direction after an 0-10 season in 2017.
"It's tough for us because we have kids from 14 different school districts coming into our program," Troxell said. "And sometimes it takes a while to get kids to work together. So I think we did some great things at camp, even if it was just putting different people together in rooms as roommates. And I really think that they came back with a feeling of family and togetherness."
One of the expected leaders for the Spartans is senior Michael Rodriguez, who echoed his coach's enthusiasm.
"I think this year we're going to have a pretty good team," Rodriguez said. "At camp and during this summer there's been a better vibe with us coming together as a team than last year. Last year was just like everyone wanted to have the spotlight, but this year there's a meaning behind the word 'team.' At camp we all knew each other on Friday, but on Sunday we finally became a team. During 7-on-7 drills we learned that if we work as a team that we can get anything done."
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.