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YORK-ADAMS DIVISION III FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Delone Catholic aims to repeat as champion

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
Tate Neiderer is a returning standout for the Delone Catholic High School football team.
  • Delone Catholic is the defending York-Adams Division III football champion.
  • After going 0-3 in nonleague action in 2019, the Squires went 7-0 in D-III play.
  • Littlestown finished second in D-III last year, but has just three returning starters.
  • Bermudian Springs was third in D-III last year. John Livelsberger is the Eagles' new head coach.
Delone Catholic head coach Corey Zortman.

After an 0-3 start last year in nonleague action, there weren’t many people picking Delone Catholic to reach the District 3 playoffs.

Coach Corey Zortman's Squires, however, rallied together and rode an eight-game winning streak to a perfect York-Adams Division III season (7-0) and a district 2-A title-game appearance. The Squires, who finished 8-4 overall in 2019, are hoping to follow up their successful run this season and the team is focused on using the lessons learned last year in its lowest moments to fuel another playoff run.

“We just learned how to work as one, work all together and support everyone on the team,” senior Tate Neiderer said.

Neiderer returns for Delone Catholic as the reigning York-Adams League Division III Defensive Player of the Year. Neiderer also was a Y-A D-III second team all-star at running back as a junior.

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The Squires’ defensive leader is excited about the return of fellow seniors Dylan Zimmerman and Cory Heffner in the secondary and added that junior Braeden Spielman could emerge as a key member of the defense at linebacker. Returning first-team D-III all-star Nick Groft is expected to anchor the Delone lines.

On offense, Delone Catholic will have to replace a pair of talented running backs that combined for 2,000 yards a season ago. Y-A D-III Offensive Player of the Year Joe Hernandez and his 1,063 rushing yards graduated, while Josh Fulton transferred to Biglerville.

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Neiderer and senior Michael O’Brien will share most of the carries, while junior Coltyn Keller is expected to replace Kevin Mowrey at quarterback.

“I think we’re extra excited to play Biglerville since Fulton moved over there,” Neiderer said. “I think that’s going to be a fun game for both teams.”

While the game against Biglerville will have some extra interest for the Squires this year, a traditional battle could be lost because of the condensed and shortened schedule. Delone Catholic and Hanover are scheduled to play on Oct. 30, but if one or both teams reach their respective District 3 playoff brackets, the longtime rivals may have to skip the game to compete in districts and not play each other for the first time since 1934.

Delone has dropped Class 1-A this season. Only two teams will advance to the district 1-A playoffs. There are just five 1-A teams in the district. The others are: Steel-High, Fairfield, Halifax and Millersburg.

The D-III season will start Friday, Sept. 18.

Superb sophomore slinger: If Hanover reaches the district 3-A playoffs it will likely be because sophomore quarterback Chase Roberts led the team there. 

As a freshman, Roberts was a Y-A D-III second-team all-star and finished third behind only New Oxford’s Brayden Long and Eastern York’s Trevor Seitz — the Y-A D-I and Y-A D-II first-team all-star quarterbacks, respectively — with 1,767 passing yards. Roberts threw 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

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Wil Rider takes over at Hanover after he spent the past few years as an assistant coach and was excited by the toughness Roberts showed as a freshman. Roberts continued to get up despite getting beat up on more than a few occasions.

Wil Rider, shown here in a 2013 photo while coaching at Spring Grove High, was recently named Hanover High head football coach.

For Roberts to have another successful season, he will lean on fellow sophomore Mason Smith in the passing game. Smith was also a D-III all-star a season ago at wide receiver after he recorded 27 catches for 428 yards. Smith was also an honorable mention on defense as a linebacker.

Hanover was 1-9 overall last year and 1-6 in D-III. The Nighthawks will compete in Class 3-A, with four teams making the 3-A district field. There are 18 3-A teams in the district.

Biglerville’s big backfield: The aforementioned Fulton and his 975 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns will be a major addition to the Canners’ program.

Josh Fulton runs the ball for Delone Catholic last season. This year, Fulton will be playing for Biglerville.

He spent time as a youth playing in the Biglerville area before going to Delone Catholic, according to new Biglerville coach Brett Smyers.

Fulton, a D-III second-team all-star running back and linebacker, joins fellow senior Kalen Sharrah in the backfield and at linebacker, forming a formidable duo for the Canners, who finished 3-7 overall and 3-4 in D-III. Sharrah was a D-III all-star at running back and linebacker a season ago with 809 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.

The Canners are a 3-A team this year.

Eagles’ new leader: Continuing the trend of new coaches in D-III, John Livelsberger takes over at Bermudian Springs this season, replacing the Jon DeFoe, who stepped down after a long and successful run at the northern Adams County school.

John Livelsberger

Livelsberger has been involved with the program for years and expects an easy transition to equal early success for the 3-A Eagles, who finished 6-5 overall and 5-2 in D-III in 2019. That included a district playoff appearance.

Senior quarterback Jaylen Martinez returns for the Eagles. Martinez will be looking for senior wide receiver Matt Zelenski to make some big plays in the passing game.

Little returning for Littlestown: The Thunderbolts got a lot of production from their senior class a year ago and will need some new faces to step up to repeat their success this year.

Littlestown has just three returning starters total from last year's team that qualified for the district playoffs and finished 7-4 overall and 6-1 in D-III.

Coach Mike Lippy was tight-lipped during Y-A media day about which individuals would be expected to take on major roles this year, but did say he had high hopes for what the 18 members of the junior class could produce in 2020.

Littlestown competes in Class 3-A.

Knights’ leaders return: In a season filled with uncertainty, consistency from a season ago could be a key to success for teams.

Fairfield should have that on both sides of the ball this year. 

Junior quarterback Jake Myers returns for the Knights with the same five offensive linemen in front of him, while fellow junior Peyton Stadler will lead the defense after a D-III honorable-mention campaign at linebacker last season.

The Knights made the district 1-A playoffs last season despite a 2-9 overall record, including a 2-5 D-III mark.

Irish return rusher: Last season didn't produce the success that York Catholic has become recently accustomed to. The Irish, just one year removed from an undefeated regular season, finished at 5-5 overall, including 4-3 in D-III.

One bright spot, however, was running back DK Wyche. 

Wyche transferred to York Catholic after a big sophomore season at York Tech and followed it up with another strong campaign as a junior. He ran for 853 yards and scored nine touchdowns and will be asked to play a big role for an Irish offense that needs to replace quarterback Mitchell Galentine, now at Eastern York.

The Irish will compete at the 2-A level this season. Only two teams will qualify for the 2-A district field. There are seven 2-A teams in the district.

Spartans return in numbers: York Tech continues to search for its first win in a few years, but will have the benefit of players familiar with its system this year.

The Class 6-A Spartans return 18 starters from a year ago, when they finished 0-10 overall and 0-7 in D-III, which will make running its unique triple-option offense a little easier.

Juniors Ja’Mar Johnson and Camron Harpine will battle for the starting quarterback role, while junior Travis Wagner will play a big role at fullback.

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.