Three games into the season, it looked like a lost year for Delone Catholic.
After losing four total games in the previous two seasons combined, the Squires were 0-3 when York-Adams League Division III play began.
With preseason expectations of competing for the division title and making the District 3 Class 2-A playoffs, things needed to change quickly if the Squires were going to reach their goals.
“We knew that we had good pieces, it just took us a little while to put the pieces together,” senior quarterback Kevin Mowrey said.
Through the last five games, everything has come together for Delone Catholic. The Squires have won five straight games and have outscored their division opponents 196-40 during that span, and sit in first place in Division III at 5-3. Delone is looking for its first D-III title since 2009.
Finding their focus: The key to that turnaround, according to Mowrey, was a change in mentality and intensity for the team during practice. He said they didn’t give their best effort during the first three weeks, but since then, every drill is a competition and the energy has led to improved play.
“We needed to let go of some stress,” Mowrey said. “We had a lot of pressure on us and we got to a point in our season where everyone was counting us out and we had no pressure on us at all. At that point, in practice we all just looked at each other and were like, ‘All right, it’s time to turn this all around.’”
Honoring the seniors: Part of that pressure on the Squires came from their desire to complete the task that last year’s seniors couldn’t — beat York Catholic and win the division.
Delone Catholic’s two losses (in a 10-2 2018 season) both came against their parochial rivals and this year’s team is motivated by a guarantee it made to the 2018 graduating class.
“We promised them that we would finish what they started,” Mowrey said. “Our biggest leap is to beat the team that they never got to beat.”
The Squires get the chance to do just that this week when the Fighting Irish visit McSherrystown. While he makes sure his team knows a victory is crucial to reaching the goals they set for the season, part of Delone Catholic coach Corey Zortman’s message to the team this week is to not get too caught up in the opponent and play their game.
“Excitement and enthusiasm will only take you so far,” Zortman said. “A lot of times when you play with too much emotion, there’s a tendency to make mistakes.”
Although York Catholic hasn’t been the dominant team it was during last year’s undefeated regular season, Zortman and his team are expecting the typical difficult game the Fighting Irish always pose, despite a 4-4 record.
“I don’t look at the record of anyone,” Zortman said. “They’ve been there, they’ve played in a lot of big games and I expect a tough matchup for us.”
A season to remember: Despite the major test they have coming this Friday and another game on the regular-season schedule, Zortman’s opinion of his team won’t change, no matter how the season ends up. The leadership the seniors have shown and bond the team has formed will be something he always remembers.
“Regardless of the outcome, I am super proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish,” Zortman said. “Sometimes when you’re down and out it’s easy to throw in the towel and they didn’t do that.”
While he isn’t looking past the game against York Catholic, Mowrey reflected on the journey that this season has been and what it would feel like to see it end with a Division III title and a district playoff berth, which will be assured with two wins to end the regular season.
“It’s going to speak to our character as a team,” Mowrey said of the Squires, who are currently No. 3 in the District 3 2-A power ratings. “None of us gave up on each other, we all stuck together this whole season. (The season) didn’t start out the way it could’ve, but it started out perfectly.”
Reach Rob Rose at email@example.com.