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
The beginning of each high school football season comes with its own unique set of questions.
It’s simply the nature of the sport.
Players excel for a year or two, then move on, opening the way for new stars to shine.
Coaches normally hang around a little longer, but there’s always at least some turnover in that department, too.
Finally, the teams remain constant, but typically ride the normal ebb and flow of success and failure that comes with constant roster turnover.
It’s what makes high school sports so fascinating — you never know what to expect.
The 2018 York-Adams League football season promises to be no different. There will almost certainly be more than a few surprising teams and breakout players.
It’s a narrative that is still to be written. The drama starts Friday, Aug. 24.
So, with a week to go before the openers, here are five burning questions heading into the upcoming campaign that are likely to become integral chapters of the 2018 high school football story:
Will Ron Miller lead Dallastown to a title? Dallastown’s hiring of Ron Miller as its head coach was undoubtedly the biggest offseason story in York-Adams League football.
Miller enjoyed great success during his previous nine-year stint at West York, posting an 86-25 record, with a 47-4 mark in York-Adams League play. He collected seven Division II titles and made seven appearances in the District 3 Class 3-A playoffs.
West York reached the district semifinals four times and the championship game twice, winning the district crown in 2008.
Miller resigned in 2014, but decided to get back into the game when Kevin Myers stepped down after the 2017 Dallastown season.
He inherits a Wildcats program that Myers left in outstanding shape. Dallastown was 8-3 last season and 6-1 in Division I, sharing the D-I title with York High.
Over 13 seasons, Myers was one of the most accomplished coaches in Wildcats’ history, going 83-60, with nine winning seasons, four Division I titles and 10 District 3 playoff appearances.
Miller will also inherit a stellar running back in Nyzair Smith, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a junior and was named the D-I Offensive Player of the Year.
Still, it would be surprising if Miller’s Wildcats simply ran roughshod over their D-I foes. York High, Red Lion and Central York all figure to provide formidable opposition.
It should make for a competitive and entertaining D-I season.
Can York High keep rolling after its stunning 2017 turnaround? There is no doubt that the biggest story of the 2017 Y-A season was York High’s amazing turnaround.
After going 1-9 in Russ Stoner’s first season as head coach, the Bearcats were a revelation in his second season, going 9-2 overall, sharing the D-I crown with Dallastown and earning a District 3 Class 5-A playoff berth.
Now, can York High give the Bearcats' faithful an encore?
Well, first they have to find a way to replace halfback Khalid Dorsey, who took his talents (and his 1,728 rushing yards) to Howard University.
Stoner, however, has some serious talent returning, notably wideout/defensive back Rob Rideout and running back/linebacker Dayjure Stewart. Rideout was the D-I Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and Stewart already has some NCAA Division I scholarship offers.
Last year, the Bearcats may have caught some teams by surprise, especially early in the season. That won’t happen this year.
Still, it would be a major upset if the Bearcats aren’t again in the thick of the D-I race.
Will shorthanded Fairfield team be able to complete the season? Less than a month ago, it wasn’t certain that Fairfield would even have a varsity football team in 2018.
The Green Knights were suffering from a lack of players, especially in the upper classes. There was talk that Fairfield would only field a junior varsity team.
After some discussion, and a little recruiting at the school, the folks at Fairfield decided to go through with the varsity season.
Now the question is this: Will Fairfield be able to survive the season?
Football is a collision sport, and injuries are inevitable. With such a small roster heading into the 2018 action, it would not be surprising if the Knights had to pull the plug on the varsity season at some point because it doesn’t have enough healthy players.
This is a story the other teams in Division III will watch with extreme interest, because if Fairfield is forced to call it quits in midseason, it could have a major bearing on the division race and possible district playoff points.
Can York Catholic make a sixth straight district title game? It’s become an annual November ritual at York Catholic.
When it’s District 3 championship time, the Fighting Irish are still battling for gold medals.
For five straight seasons, the Irish have been in a district final, winning the 2-A crown in 2016.
This year, the Irish are hoping to make it six straight. They are one of nine teams in the 2-A field, and four will be make the district bracket.
York Catholic, under coach Eric DePew, has become a small-school force in the region, and they do have some returning talent, notably standout running back Drew Snelbaker.
A capable replacement must be found for graduated Kyle Dormer, whose midseason move to quarterback sparked York Catholic's late-season run in 2017. Dormer finished as the D-III Offensive Player of the Year in 2017.
Recent history tells us, however, that it’s not smart to bet against the Irish.
Will this finally be the year that the Y-A League enjoys a big-school breakthrough in the District 3 playoffs? This story is well-known to local football fans by now.
The York-Adams League big schools have struggled mightily in the District 3 playoffs.
In fact, West York’s 3-A title in 2008 (when there were only four classes) is the one and only crown won by a Y-A big school.
A big school, for this argument, would be defined as a 3-A or 4-A team under the old four-class format, or a 6-A, 5-A or 4-A team under the current six-class structure.
Could a breakthrough be coming in 2018?
The chances appear unlikely.
The gap between the Y-A big schools, and the big schools from the Mid-Penn, Lancaster-Lebanon and Berks leagues doesn’t seem to be narrowing. Last year, after the first round of districts, not a single Y-A team was left standing in 6-A, 5-A or 4-A.
Which Y-A big school is the best bet for a breakthrough championship in 2018?
York High may have a decent chance in Class 5-A.
Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.