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2018 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: West York's Ay'Jaun Marshall garnering lots of attention

DICK VanO'LINDA
717-505-5403/@ydsports
  • West York's Ay'Jaun Marshall has already received several offers from Division I colleges.
  • The running back/defensive back rushed for 1,227 yards a season ago, to go with 48 tackles.
  • The 5-foot, 10-inch, 170-pounder was the York-Adams Division III Offensive Player of the Year.

Ay'Jaun Marshall's goal was to earn an NCAA Division I college football scholarship.

West York 's Ay'Jaun Marshall finds a hole and runs for a 96-yard touchdown in the first quarter against Dover on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. Marshall was the York-Adams Division II Offensive Player of the Year in 2017. Bill Kalina photo

The West York High School standout, however, didn't expect to get an offer before he played a single down in his senior year.

That's exactly what has happened, though, as the Bulldogs' running back/safety heads into his final high school season. He has D-I offers from Army, Navy, Sacred Heart and Morgan State.

"It's  been crazy," Marshall said during York-Adams League Football Media Day. "It's definitely a dream come true."

West York head coach Jeremy Jones thinks the things that Marshall can do in the open field are what caught the attention of college recruiters.

"He can be a receiver, can play in the slot and he's really a big threat on kickoff returns. Last year, he was involved in five plays over 70 yards, plus he had a 98-yard kickoff return. I sent his information to all the (college) divisions, and it (the recruiting) just took off like wildfire."

At football media day, optimism reigns supreme

The 5-foot, 10-inch, 170-pound Marshall was the Y-A D-II Offensive Player of the Year a season ago, and a first-team all-star at running back and defensive back. He rushed for 1,227 yards and averaged 7.4 yards per carry. Defensively he had 48 tackles.

Marshall isn't ready to make a decision yet. There's time to weigh the offers.

He and his teammates are more concerned about what they hope is a turnaround season.

The Bulldogs finished 2-8 overall last season.

"I'm getting the focus off me and on the team," Marshall said. "Getting the offers doesn't mean you can take things off. I'm taking on more of a leadership role this year."

Andrew LaManna, at 6 feet, 5 inches, provides a big target at wideout for West York. John A. Pavoncello photo

Marshall's teammate, Andrew LaManna, a 6-foot, 5-inch senior wide receiver, said he and his teammates began to prepare for the upcoming season months before the opening whistle.

"We had a lot of spring and summer workouts," said LaManna, who had 29 catches for 332 yards last season, averaging 11.4 yards per catch. "We've taken it upon ourselves to establish a brotherhood."

West York, a young team the past two seasons (less than 20 seniors combined) features 20-plus seniors this year.

Jones considers the experience a strong point this year.

However, to turn things around, he said the Bulldogs have to build an offensive line, take care of the ball on offense and create more turnovers on defense.

West York will take on Central York, Shippensburg, Lampeter-Strasburg and Wyomissing in a difficult non-league schedule.

Division II outlook: The Division II race went down to the final week last season when Susquehannock defeated Dover to capture the crown.

Susquehannock High School head coach Steve Wiles has a young team this season, with only a few returning starters. Thursday, August 2, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

"The excitement just grew and grew last year, it was a great atmosphere for kids," Susquehannock head coach Steve Wiles said.

The 2017 Warriors were a veteran team. Just five starters (three on offense and two on defense) return from the championship club.

"We graduated 18 seniors, so we'll have lot of new faces on the field," Wiles said.

Eloy Rojo-fuentes, a returning senior, though, isn't conceding anything going into 2018.

"We not satisfied," said Rojo-fuentes, a two-way tackle. "We'll be trying to get further and further."

If a team is to succeed Susquehannock as division champion, which one will it be?

Dover, last's year runner-up, is good team to start with in compiling a list of contenders. The Eagles return their entire offensive line and quarterback.

Running back Brandon Lawyer returns for the Dover football team in 2018. Bill Kalina photo

"I honestly think we're better this year than last year," running back Brandon Lawyer said. "We lift every day but Wednesday, and we're more of a family."

Gettysburg brings back 14 starters as the Warriors bid to be part of the title mix.

"Do our best and return to postseason play," Gettysburg head coach Matt Heiser said when asked his outlook for the upcoming season.

Kennard-Dale finished fourth in the division in 2017 and hit the .500 mark overall at 5-5.

Wyatt McCleary rushed for 824 yards, and Josh Vipperman supplied 373 rushing yards for the Rams last year. Both players return this season, along with senior quarterback Noah Hulslander.

Noah Hulslander returns at quarterback for Kennard-Dale in 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

Head coach Chris Grube lists 14 players as key returning letter winners.

"It's been exciting to watch these players grow," Grube said. "We bring back a lot of guys offensively and defensively."

Among the returning players is senior quarterback Noah Hulslander, who is optimistic about the team's outlook.

"Our offense is pretty experienced, and we have the big boys up front," Hulslander said.

Eastern York graduate Joshua Campbell is preparing for his first season as head football coach at his alma mater.

Campbell will be counting on 14 returning starters, seven on each side of the ball.

Familiar face to lead Eastern football team

"Our new head coach has been recruiting a lot of players, we have 45 now," Golden Knights' senior Demonte Martin said. "We've been improving every single day."

In Andrew Frey's first two years at York Suburban, the Trojans were 8-2 both regular seasons and qualified for the District 3 playoffs. Last year, a young Trojans' team slipped to 2-8.

Frey and the other seniors are determined to help turn things around in their final season.

"We're starting to get back  on our feet," Frey said. "We emphasized lifting a lot in the off-season."

Suburban lost just two starters to graduation.

"We were  ridiculously inexperienced last year," head coach Andy Loucks said. "We were almost all sophomores. We're still learning this year."

Reach Dick VanO'Linda at sports@yorkdispatch.com.