York-Adams League football playoff preview: Capsules for each first-round game

Six local teams are in action on the first weekend of the postseason, with four playing at home.

Thomas Kendziora
York Dispatch

It’s high school football playoff time in Pennsylvania, and nine of the York-Adams League’s 22 teams are in the dance.

Six of those nine squads will put their seasons on the line this weekend, with five in action Friday night and Fairfield kicking off Saturday afternoon. New Oxford, the Y-A Division II champion, earned a bye in Class 5A, while Central York and York High are already preparing for a rematch next week after playing each other last Friday.

Four York-Adams teams won playoff games last year, with three reaching their district semifinals and York Catholic taking home a Class 2A crown. The Irish, however, narrowly missed the playoffs this year after posting a 5-5 record. Their season came to an end last week, as did those of Dallastown, Red Lion and York Tech in Class 6A; Spring Grove and Northeastern in 5A; Susquehannock, West York and Eastern York in 4A; and Littlestown, Bermudian Springs, Biglerville and Hanover in 3A.

Dover vs. Eastern York during football action at Dover Area High School in Dover Township, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Dover would win the game  35-7. Dawn J. Sagert/The York Dispatch

South Western, Dover, York Suburban and Delone Catholic all have home games Friday night, while Kennard-Dale is on the road. Fairfield’s Saturday tilt with Steel-High will be for the Class 1A district title. Here’s the full rundown of all six contests on tap.

CLASS 5A FIRST ROUND

No. 11 Northern York (6-4) at No. 6 South Western (7-3): The Mustangs are making their second consecutive postseason appearance but seek their first playoff win since 2011. South Western’s only three losses came against Division I rivals from Class 6A, and two of those defeats (20-13 against Dallastown and 30-28 against Central York) were by one score. The defense allowed just 19 points per game in the regular season; take out a 52-14 loss to York High and the Mustangs surrendered just 15.3 on average. They also scored a 24-7 Week 3 win over New Oxford, which awaits the winner of this matchup.

Northern York has been in close games all season, including a stretch of three straight contests earlier this month decided by a single point. The Polar Bears are battle-tested, and they also have the experience of winning a playoff game last fall. Two-way ace Cole Bartram tallied 1,334 yards and 15 touchdowns as a running back and 109 tackles as a linebacker.

No. 10 Garden Spot (7-3) at No. 7 Dover (8-2): The Eagles are in the playoffs for the first time since 2013 after a brilliant turnaround season that saw them beat their win total from the last three years combined. Junior dual-threat quarterback Aric Campbell, senior 1,055-yard rusher Gavin Mullins and junior ace receiver Thomas Smyser led an offense that averaged 28.3 points while the defense allowed just 20 per game.

The visiting Spartans are in the playoffs for the first time since 2014 thanks in large part to quarterback Kye Hartung, who passed for 1,737 yards, ran for 1,076 more and put 31 total touchdowns on the board. Garden Spot lost 35-20 to undefeated 5A top seed Solanco last Friday but won 66-21 against Elizabethtown, the bracket’s No. 5 seed, the week prior. Dover is 0-2 against teams in the 5A playoff field, losing to New Oxford and South Western. Getting this one would earn them a trip to Exeter Township next weekend.

CLASS 4A FIRST ROUND

No. 10 Donegal (4-6) at No. 7 York Suburban (6-4): The Trojans haven’t won a playoff game since capturing a district title in 1986, and they return to the postseason for the first time since 2019. But they beat this Donegal team 41-18 on the road in Week 2 and now welcome the Indians to their home field. Second-seeded Manheim Central awaits the winner.

York Suburban’s recipe for success starts and ends with senior running back Mikey Bentivegna, whose 1,873 rushing yards and 31 total touchdowns are both school records. He ran for 257 yards against Donegal in September and tallied 255 against Northeastern last week. The Trojans will hope to take control on the ground early and give their defense a lead to protect.

No. 9 Kennard-Dale (4-6) at No. 8 East Pennsboro (4-6): The Rams’ second straight playoff appearance didn’t come without some bumps in the road. A year after going 9-1 in the regular season, Kennard-Dale started 0-3 this fall and suffered a separate three-game losing streak to drop to 3-6. But last week’s win over Susquehannock was enough to push the Rams into November.

The Panthers have a home playoff game despite closing the regular-season on a five-game losing streak in which they averaged only 13 points per contest. It’s East Pennsboro’s first playoff appearance since 2017. The winner of this 8-9 matchup faces top-seeded Bishop McDevitt in the district quarterfinals.

CLASS 2A SEMIFINALS

No. 3 Trinity (6-4) at No. 2 Delone Catholic (7-3): It’s a rematch of Week 1, when the Squires opened their season with a 35-7 loss to the Shamrocks. Delone started the season 0-3 before running the table in York-Adams Division III, a feat the Squires also accomplished in 2019 (and they turned 0-3 into 6-4 last season). 

Look for Delone Catholic to lean on its playmakers as it seeks to win the rematch. Brady Dettinburn rushed for 1,030 yards in the regular season and scored 11 total touchdowns. Gage Zimmerman averaged 9.6 yards per carry and found the end zone 12 times. And Ryder Noel had five TDs just last week, bringing his season total to 13. If the Squires can keep the ball in the hands of that big three, they’ll give themselves a chance.

CLASS 1A CHAMPIONSHIP

No. 2 Fairfield (2-7) at No. 1 Steel-High (8-1): The Green Knights, with a roster of 19 players and only two wins this season, did enough to place second out of three teams in District 3 Class 1A (ahead of 0-9 Halifax). Fairfield’s two wins came against Biglerville and York Tech, and a third would be their first-ever playoff victory. Steel-High is a 14-time district champion and the No. 2-ranked Class 1A team in the whole state, per PennLive. 

Kickoff is at 1 p.m. Saturday.