HEISER: While facing an unsettled future, here's a glimpse into the storied past of York-Adams football teams

  • Among York-Adams teams, York High has the oldest football program, starting in 1893.
  • Gettysburg leads Y-A football programs with 571 all-time victories.
  • Littlestown's all-time .638 winning percentage is the best among Y-A football teams.
York High head coach Russ Stoner is seen here talking to his Bearcats in a file photo. York High is the oldest high school program in the York-Adams League. The Bearcats started playing football in 1893.

Numbers and sports history go together like Abbott and Costello.

You simply can’t have one without the other.

(And if you don’t know who Abbott and Costello are, look 'em up on YouTube. They were funny guys and had a legendary baseball comedy sketch.)

That’s why a recently updated post on the Pennsylvania Football History website is so fascinating for those who love high school football in the Keystone State. It provides a compelling glimpse into the past.

It’s well known that our state has long had an intense passion for scholastic football. That’s obvious to anyone following the fierce debate about whether high school football should be held this fall during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PIAA approves start of fall sports season, practices can begin Monday

At this point, the PIAA has given fall sports its blessing and the York-Adams League is scheduled to kick off an abbreviated football season on Thursday, Sept. 17, when Eastern York visits York Suburban’s Dick May Field. The rest of the league is set to start the following night.

The key word, however, is scheduled. It’s still uncertain if high school football will be played this fall. The local school boards, and the coronavirus, will have the final say on the matter in the weeks to come.

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Until that time, it seems like a perfect opportunity to chew on some of the Y-A numbers compiled by the PFH site. It should provide a much-needed respite from all the depressing chatter about outbreaks, contact tracing, mask wearing and hand sanitizers.

It could also lead to some (hopefully) friendly trash talk among fans from rival Y-A schools.

So, let’s reflect on some storied local football history, while also hoping that some more history will be made in a little more than three weeks.

Here, with great thanks to the PFH site, are some historical football facts you may not know:

Oldest programs: Not surprisingly, York High is the oldest football program in the Y-A League, having played 1,082 games since the team’s inception way back in 1893.

The Bearcats’ overall record is 535-506-41, good for a .513 winning percentage. Russ Stoner’s recent success at York High, going 27-8 in the last three years, has pushed the program solidly above the .500 mark.

Gettysburg boasts the second-oldest program in the league, dating its history to 1914, followed by Hanover, which started in 1923.

Littlestown head football coach Mike Lippy chats with Bermudian Springs head football coach Jon DeFoe during the 2019 York-Adams League Football Media Day. The Thunderbolts have the best all-time football winning percentage among York-Adams teams at .638.

Best winning percentage: Littlestown has the best all-time winning percentage of any current Y-A member. The Thunderbolts have gone 480-269-16 since their program started in 1947. That’s good for a .638 winning percentage.

Littlestown is followed by Delone Catholic at .623. The Squires began playing football in 1930 and have an overall record of 564-337-25. No. 3 on the list is South Western at .591, with an overall mark of 370-255-8.

Gettysburg's Ruger Pennington gains some yards vs. York Suburban last season. The Warriors lead all York-Adams League teams in all-time football wins with 571.

Most wins: Gettysburg boasts the most wins of any Y-A program with 571. The Warriors have also been consistently successful, with a .579 winning percentage (571-410-42).

Delone (564) is second on the wins list, followed by York High (535). They are the only the Y-A schools with at least 500 victories.

Program starts: Nine Y-A schools started their programs before World War II: York High (1893), Gettysburg (1914), Hanover (1923), Susquehannock/New Freedom (1927), Biglerville (1929), Delone (1930), West York (1934), Red Lion (1934) and York Catholic (1938).

Two more schools started football in 1947 (Littlestown and Dallastown), followed by Kennard-Dale in 1949. After that, there weren’t any new local football teams until 1957, when Central York started a team. From 1957 through 1960, six new programs were started (Central York in 1957, Bermudian Springs and York Suburban in 1959 and South Western, Spring Grove and South Western in 1960).

There was another flurry of local football additions in the mid-1970s, when Dover (1974), New Oxford (1974) and Eastern York (1975) began programs.

The most recent local school to add football was Northeastern in 2008.

Now, all 23 members of the Y-A League play the sport.

Notes of interest: Here are some other notes of local, regional and state interest.

►Steel-High has the most wins of any District 3 team at 754. The Rollers are the only District 3 team in the state top 10 for all-time wins.

Mount Carmel leads the state at 866, followed by Easton (844), Berwick (825), Jeannette (756), Steel-High (754), New Castle (744), Aliquippa (734), Coatesville (721), Williamsport (717) and Washington (710).

In all, 13 Pennsylvania schools have reached 700 all-time wins. (Philadelphia) Central (709), Penn Charter (706) and Huntingdon (700) join those listed above.

►Pottsville leads all Pennsylvania teams in games played at 1,272, followed by Easton and Mount Carmel at 1,256. Williamsport is fourth at 1,253 and Steel-High is fifth at 1,248.

►The state teams with the most all-time losses are: Lebanon (661), Reading (625), Roman Catholic (602), Union City (595) and South Philadelphia (591).

►For teams with a minimum of 1,000 games played, Mount Carmel boasts the best winning percentage at .713. For teams with a minimum of 400 games, Ridley leads the way at .776. For teams with a minimum of 200 games, Blakely is first at .817. For teams with at least 100 games, Berks Catholic tops the list at .828.

►Finally, did you know that the now-defunct St. Francis Prep School near Spring Grove once had a football team?

The Prep played football from 1946 through 1976, compiling a 84-100-5 mark (.458).

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. Numbers for this story were provided by the Pennsylvania Football History website.


Here is a team-by-team look at the history for each Y-A team, listed by school, date the program was started, record and winning percentage. The teams are listed in order of wins:

Gettysburg, 1914, 571-410-42, .579.

Delone Catholic, 1930, 564-337-25, .623.

York High, 1893, 535-506-41, .513.

Littlestown, 1947, 480-269-16, .638.

Hanover, 1923, 474-459-37, .508

West York, 1934, 469-378-26, .552.

Red Lion, 1934, 455-368-22, .551.

Biglerville, 1929, 383-472-26, .449.

York Catholic, 1938, 375-382-18, .495.

South Western, 1960, 370-255-8, .591.

Bermudian Springs, 1959, 366-256-7, .587.

Central York, 1957, 361-278-10, .564.

Dallastown, 1947, 352-351-15, .501.

York Suburban, 1959, 343-259-11, .569.

Susquehannock/New Freedom, 1927, 310-467-14, .401.

Spring Grove, 1960, 275-315-15, .467.

Dover, 1974, 214-255-6, .457.

New Oxford, 1974, 188-289-8, .396.

Eastern York, 1975, 130-309-4, .298.

Kennard-Dale, 1949, 127-529-10, .198.

York Tech, 1969, 98-397-5, .201.

Northeastern, 2008, 63-64-0, .496.

Fairfield, 2003, 34-138-0, .198.