'A business decision': Central York-West York football rivalry to end after 2019 season

  • The Central York vs. West York rivalry will end after the 2019 season.
  • The Panthers will play Class 5-A Exeter Township in 2020 and 2021.
  • Central head coach Josh Oswalt called the move a "business decision."
  • The athletic directors from Central and West York said the end of the rivalry may not be forever.
Central York head coach Josh Oswalt, shown here coaching against West York in a file photo, said the move to drop West York from the Panthers' schedule was a "business decision." DISPATCH FILE PHOTO

Central York head football coach Josh Oswalt admits that everyone may not like the way he does things.

Oswalt, who is entering his fourth season as Central York’s head coach, wants to make the Panthers a District 3 power. That’s why Oswalt, along with athletic director Marty Trimmer, decided to end Central’s Week Zero rivalry against West York after the 2019 season. The Panthers and Bulldogs have kicked off the season almost every year since 2006.

“It’s something I wanted to happen when I started,” Oswalt said. “It took me three years to convince the powers who are. Not everyone is excited for the decision. That rings true in my building as well. At the end of the day, it’s a business decision. We can’t play a 4-A team if we want to have that success.”

As a Class 6-A school, beating a 4-A school isn’t as rewarding in the District 3 power ranking system as beating a 5-A or 6-A school. Playing West York, Oswalt believes, doesn’t help make the Panthers a district power, because the game doesn’t help to improve the Panthers’ seeding, which could result in a home playoff game. In 2020 and 2021, the Panthers will play Class 5-A Exeter Township instead of West York.

“In order to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” Oswalt said. “We’re doing everything we can to schedule the top teams.”

Losing a rivalry: Oswalt played and coached at Cumberland Valley when the Eagles’ rivalry with Mechanicsburg ended due to similar circumstances.

“Classification kind of ruined that too,” Oswalt said. “I see both ends of it, but it’s a business decision. I want our kids to make a run in the playoffs.”

Trimmer, who Oswalt said has been in his “corner” since the beginning, said now is the right time for Central to go in another direction.

Central York head football coach Josh Oswalt leads his players during a recent workout. The Panthers are ranked No. 12 among central Pennsylvania high school teams, regardless of class size.

“We’ve enjoyed our series with West York,” Trimmer said. “I’m not saying it will never happen again, but this is best direction for both of our programs.”

Oswalt said he understands that people will question the decisions he makes because he replaced longtime head coach Brad Livingston, who led the Panthers from 1982-2015.

“I don’t feel pressures from the inside — kids, parents, teachers — but there are some folks, who have the right to question the things I do, because I’m not Brad Livingston,” Oswalt said. “I’m not Brad. I’m Josh. I do honor Brad and everything he did here, but all I can do is be Josh.”

Classification challenges: What makes playing a 4-A school less viable for Central, Oswalt said, is the construction of the York-Adams League. While he said the competition in Division I is “good,” it doesn’t help the 6-A schools (Central, Red Lion and Dallastown) that the other five schools (New Oxford, Spring Grove, Northeastern, South Western and York High) are all in 5-A.

“We are hamstrung big time,” Oswalt said. “We don’t think it’s bad competition, but we’re behind the eight ball.”

Oswalt pointed to the nonleague schedules the top teams in the district play as reason for the change. He referenced Cumberland Valley, which still had a chance of making the district playoffs at 3-6 if the Eagles had defeated State College in their final game.

“In order to compete against (the top-tier teams), look at who they play in their nonleague games,” Oswalt said. “We now have great games vs. Cumberland Valley, Hempfield, William Penn, Red Lion, Dallastown and Exeter.”

Big school woes: Playing in the 5-A-heavy Y-A League Division I has led the 6-A schools in D-I to play road games against teams with worse records in the district playoffs since the switch to the six-classification system.

In those road games, the local 6-A teams have struggled. Despite the struggles, Oswalt believes Central is primed to “break through.”

“We have the clientele,” Oswalt said. “We went 7-4, 6-4 and 8-3 the last three years. The next thing we have to do is win a district game and then win three district games.”

Why Exeter Township?: Oswalt said Exeter, which went 6-5 last season and made the District 3 playoffs in 5-A, is a “formidable” opponent.

“They’re projecting in the right direction,” he said.

Oswalt said when Central decided to move away from West York, the Panthers had an agreement with a 6-A school for that slot. He said the school “went behind our back” and renewed an agreement with another team. Oswalt declined to name the 6-A school.

West York’s schedule: West York athletic director Frank Hawkins said the Bulldogs are waiting for the league to finalize its division alignments to decide who to schedule in place of Central York.

“We were disappointed,” Hawkins said. “We know why they were doing it. Their coach is looking for competition that will get them points.”

Both Trimmer and Hawkins left the door open for the rivalry to continue in the future.

“We hope to continue it in the future,” Hawkins said.

Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at jmeyer@yorkdispatch.com.