Starting 0-3 isn’t how Andrew LaManna and Ay’Jaun Marshall drew up the beginning of their senior season for the West York football team.
In recent years, however, that kind of start is all the Bulldogs have known.
Since LaManna and Marshall — possibly West York’s two best players — and the other 19 seniors were freshmen, the Bulldogs have started 0-3 every season.
The bad starts have led to records of 5-5 in 2015 and 2-8 in each of the last two seasons.
The Bulldogs are convinced this year will be different.
“We’ve seen the worst that this can be,” Marshall said. “We’ve started 0-3 the last two years and ended up 2-8. Now we’re trying to figure out what the best of starting 0-3 we can be. What we can do to turn the season around?”
Difficult schedule: None of West York’s losses are bad defeats.
The Bulldogs lost 38-14 in its opener to Class 6-A Central York — a team that is expected to finish near the top of the York-Adams Division I standings.
West York, a Class 4-A school, then lost one-score games to Class 5-A Shippensburg and Class 4-A Lampeter-Strasburg. The combined record of West York's three foes is 9-0.
“They’re three very good teams, and we played very well the last two weeks,” West York head coach Jeremy Jones said. “I think it prepared us for the division. That’s what you want out of your nondivision games.”
LaManna said the close games against Shippensburg and Lampeter, both of which the Bulldogs led at some point, illustrated the potential the team has.
“It lets us know how good we can be,” LaManna said. “We saw little glimpses throughout the games against Shippensburg and Lampeter with how good we can be.”
While the Bulldogs are the only winless team in the division, most D-II teams have played weaker competition than West York.
“You can’t look at records right now,” Jones said. “Records mean nothing.”
The average classification of the other six teams’ opponents is 3.44 — lower than the 4-A or 5-A distinction of every D-II team. Only two D-II teams (Dover and Gettysburg) played exclusively 4-A or higher classification schools. Similar to the Bulldogs, the Eagles and the Warriors are both 1-2 this season after difficult nonleague schedules.
“We definitely had the toughest nonleague schedule by far out of our division,” Marshall said. “I think that plays a big role.”
Wide open division: The unpredictable and wide-open nature of the division certainly gives the Bulldogs hope that a championship is possible.
Susquehannock (1-2), the 2017 champion, lost a large senior class from last season, and D-II is the only division in the York-Adams League without an undefeated team. All seven teams in the division, presumably, think they’re contenders entering league play — and West York is one of them.
“In our division especially, everybody in our league thinks they’re going to win,” LaManna said. “The first couple games of the division are the deciding factor, but everyone does feel confident in the beginning just based on the nonleague (games).”
Senior leadership: The Bulldogs think this season can be different because of their strong senior class.
When the Bulldogs were winless entering league play in the past few seasons, it was tough for the young team to bounce back. With 21 seniors this year, though, LaManna said the Bulldogs are poised to shake off the 0-3 start.
“I think we know because we’ve been through it for the past two years,” LaManna said. “We know how to get through this thing and know that we can’t dwell on it. It’s up to the captains and the older guys to keep their heads and keep everyone else in it.”
Leading the senior class are Marshall and LaManna — the team’s top rusher and receiver, respectively. Marshall is fourth in rushing yards in the Y-A League with 403 yards, and LaManna is first in receptions with 20.
“Andrew is never too high or too low; he’s very mature in that way. He’s a leader by example,” Jones said. “Ay’Jaun is the rah-rah, vocal leader. He’s very passionate and he wears it on his sleeve. … They’re completely different, but equally important, as (leaders).”
This senior class is the first one that Jones, who started his tenure at West York in 2015, coached for all four years.
“I want this for the kids as much as they want it,” Jones said. “I’ve had these guys for four years. I want this so bad for them.”
The Bulldogs travel to Gettysburg (1-2) Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
“The division championship is still in reach,” Marshall said. “Once we get that one win, I think we’re going to start rolling. I think we can get pretty scary.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org