YORK-ADAMS DIVISION II FOOTBALL PREVIEW: New Oxford must fill big holes, to face new foes

  • New Oxford moves to York-Adams Division II this season in football.
  • York Suburban looks to replicate its success from last year's 10-win season.
  • Eastern York returns a pair of all-star wide receivers.
Connor Beans is expected to be New Oxford's starting quarterback in 2020.

Replacing two of the best players in program history is difficult enough.

Now, the New Oxford High School football program has an added challenge.

The Colonials will have to face a bunch of unfamiliar foes with their move to York-Adams League Division II this season.

Last season in Y-A D-I, the prolific passing duo of quarterback Brayden Long and wideout Abdul Janneh led the team to a District 3 Class 5-A playoff win. The Colonials finished 7-5 overall in 2019 and 4-3 in D-I.

Now, because of changing enrollment figures, New Oxford has swapped places with Dover, with the Eagles moving from D-II to D-I, while the Colonials move in the opposite direction.

Without the knowledge that comes from playing against the same teams in their division each season, New Oxford coach Jason Warner said in August that it would be especially difficult if the schedule was adjusted to include division-only games — which it has been — because it would eliminate the opportunity for his staff to review film of upcoming opponents during nonleague play.

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“We have tried our best to gather as much information about the opponents,” Warner said. “The one challenge is that we don’t know as much about the teams we’re going to be playing. We don’t have years of film on them to know their systems, so it will be a little bit bigger task for the coaching staff.”

The challenge is made more difficult because many of the D-II programs primarily feature run-based offenses. D-II had four of the league's top-10 leading rushers in 2019.

New Oxford will also need to replace the elite duo of Long and Janneh. Long, the reigning D-I Offensive Player of the Year, and Janneh are off to play college football.

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Senior Connor Beans will likely get the starting nod at quarterback after previously serving as Long's backup. Beans and Long spent time working together after the season and Warner is excited about Beans' prospects because of the work ethic he showed.

“He witnessed the work that Brayden put in, not just in season, but in the offseason and that’s something we have witnessed from Connor over the last two years — his commitment in the offseason and his commitment to be better at what he does,” Warner said. “It’s not just a commitment that he talks about, it’s a commitment that he follows through with and puts a lot of time (into) and we’re very excited about that.”

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Beans' offensive line will need to come together quickly, with only fellow senior LaDamien Williams returning at tackle from last year's unit. Williams was a D-I second-team all-star at tackle last season. Senior tight end Torbyn Eakins could be Beans' favorite target this season. The 6-foot, 4-inch Eakins was a D-I honorable-mention pick at the position a year ago.

While they don't have much information on the teams they will face this year in a division-only season, the Colonials aren't worried. The sport is the same, and after months of uncertainty, they're just excited to get back on the field.

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“It’s just a new location, I’m still playing football,” Williams said. “At the end of the day, I’m still playing football and I want to play my best against whatever team we face.”

Trojans look to repeat: It's probably unfair to compare this year's York Suburban team to the 2019 squad after its unbelievable run that featured an unbeaten regular season and a D-II championship.

The Trojans (10-1 overall in 2019 and 7-0 in D-II) were led by D-II Offensive Player of the Year Savion Harrison, who ran for 1,732 yards. Suburban also lost one of Harrison's elite blockers in tackle Garth Barclay, who is off to Syracuse. 

Nate Banks, right, is one of the leading returning players for York Suburban in 2020.

Harrison will be replaced by senior running back Nate Banks, who was a D-II first-team all-star at cornerback and a second-team all-star kick returner with 578 total offensive yards and nine touchdowns.

Junior quarterback Camden Brewer returns to lead the Trojans' offense after getting time under center toward the end of last season. Brewer will look to senior tight end Isaiah Pineda, a D-II first-team all-star in 2019, in the passing game.

Eastern's elite receivers: The Eastern Golden Knights' continued their high offensive output last season, despite losing a pair of wide receivers to NCAA Division I football programs.

Eastern replaced that elite duo with a pair of talented pass catchers last season who return this year. Senior Jacob Crumling returns after he was a D-II first team all-star with 437 receiving yards. Junior Bryce Currier, a D-II second-team all-star, also is back after collecting 520 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2019.

The Knights (3-7 overall in 2019 and 1-5 in D-II) will need to replace the player who threw the passes to those receivers. Quarterback Trevor Seitz graduated. Senior Mitchell Galentine will compete for the position after he transferred from York Catholic.

Warriors look to replace leaders: To replicate the success from its 8-3 overall record in 2019, Gettysburg will need to fill the void left by a trio of elite players.

The Warriors must deal with the graduation of two-time reigning D-II Defensive Player of the Year Austin Heiser, D-II first-team all-star running back Charles Warren and D-II first-team all-star quarterback Zach Ketterman.

Ketterman and Warren were also all-stars on defense, while Heiser was an all-star tight end, helping Gettysburg to a 5-1 D-II record in 2019.

Ruger Pennington, right, will be one of Gettysburg's top returning players in 2020.

Key players for the Warriors in 2020 will be senior running back Ruger Pennington, a D-II second-team all-star in 2019, senior Gunnar Wilson a D-II second-team all-star at wide receiver and an honorable-mention cornerback and Max Goulrey, a D-II first-team all-star linebacker.

Rams ready to run: Kennard-Dale needs to replace its all-time leading rusher with the graduation of Wyatt McCleary, but returns a talented running back and the majority of its offensive line from a team that finished 6-4 overall in 2019 and 3-3 in D-II.

Junior D.J. Noland will take on a bigger role in the backfield after he posted 656 yards and 12 touchdowns during a D-II honorable-mention sophomore season. Noland will enjoy the benefit of four returning starters on the offensive line, including senior Gabe Hulslander, an all-star lineman on both sides of the ball last season.

D.J. Noland (1) ran for 656 yards and 12 touchdowns last season for Kennard-Dale. He will return to the Rams in 2020.

Warriors' youth movement: Susquehannock will look to replace a big senior class with a crop of sophomores and juniors.

Michael Staub will get the first shot at quarterback after he played running back last season.

The Warriors will turn to a committee of young running backs to replace Dan Clapp's 1,069 rushing yards from a year ago.

Susquehannock is coming off a 4-6 overall record in 2019, including a 2-4 D-II mark.

West York continues rebuild: After a 1-9 overall record in 2019, the Bulldogs will look to bounce back from a down year this campaign.

Senior safety Joey DeJesus will lead the defense after he was a D-II first-team all-star at safety. He also plays running back.

Joey DeJesus, left, is expected to be one of West York's top returning players in 2020.

Quarterback Brady Halloran will remain at quarterback after he took over for the second half of last season. Halloran has a pair of big targets to throw to in 6-3 Chaz Ethridge and 6-3 Tyler Nalls.

West York was 1-5 in D-II last year.

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.