Last season, a new York County Tech staff got an up-close-and-personal look at the Spartans' division competition.
That one year was all it took for head coach Doug Wilkinson and his assistants to understand the challenge ahead of them. The message was communicated to the Tech players, who so far have understood and embraced the task.
"We feel like we're light years ahead of where we were last year," assistant coach Jerry Higgins said while subbing for Wilkinson at YAIAA media day. "There were times last season when we were completely outmatched. We knew it required a new commitment in the weight room. It might be a couple years before we're seeing ourselves in the same light as some of those teams, but these kids are buying in."
The final numbers don't necessarily tell the story of Tech's 2011 season. The Spartans finished with a 2-8 mark, but their play showed hints of potential. Tech battled backyard rival York Suburban through a tight first half, and the squad was within one score of Biglerville late in the second half.
But those efforts didn't translate into wins. A large reason was that the Spartans took away many of their own opportunities -- their triple-option offense, built on principles of clock control and tempo, wasn't keeping the football long enough.
"When we sat down and analyzed the year, we knew our biggest problem by far was holding on to the football," Higgins said. "We looked at every drive and found we had a 78 percent success rate on drives where we didn't turn the ball over."
Dickson will have a deep and versatile complement of backs to work with, including a hammer in junior fullback Calvin Savary. Tailbacks Judonn Mitchell and Stephaun Montouth both received varsity carries last season, and senior letterman Austin Wertz also moves into the backfield.
Save the date: Tech should find out a lot about itself in its season opener with Pequea Valley -- the teams have split their last two meetings. Also big is the annual tussle with Suburban. Both squads are looking to have some upward mobility this season.
Intangibles: The Spartans, never the deepest team in YAIAA Division III, must stay healthy. Last year, starting linemen Henry Lillich and Dillon Bowman both suffered broken legs that ended their seasons (they both return this year). That's a blow few high school teams could weather, let alone a squad with low roster numbers.
Bottom line: The option offense can be a great equalizer -- when the teams running it don't turn the ball over. The Spartans have a backfield capable of producing, and the team's renewed commitment seems infectious. If they hang on to the ball and keep the defense from spending too much time on the field, a few more wins could come Tech's way.
Running back/Defensive back
Who is the one player on your team you wouldn't want to face? Calvin Savary. He's always been bigger than me. We're always going head-to-head at each other, though. This year is going to be even more intense.
Which NFL player would you compare to yourself? I'm a Carolina Panthers fan. My favorite player is Steve Smith, but at my position I would have to pick my guys are DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. (Wertz went on to predict a Super Bowl berth for the Panthers.)
What's your favorite pregame music? I have a workout radio station on Pandora. It's a lot of hard rock. Drowning Pool, "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor," that kind of music.
Do you have a nickname? How did you get it? "Caterpillars," for my big, bushy eyebrows. And you can't see them because they're white. Coach (Jerry) Higgins gave that to me.
What was your most embarrassing sports moment? In fifth grade I played running back for the Spring Grove Jets. We were in a playoff semifinal game in the third overtime and we had a bad exchange and lost the ball. That one moment cost us the game.
If they made a movie of your life, who plays you? Right now, I'd have to say Adam Sandler. He's made a lot of football movies, and he's my favorite actor.
|8/31||at Pequea Valley||7 p.m.|
|9/8||Delone Catholic||10 a.m.|
|9/14||at York Suburban||7 p.m.|
|9/22||Bermudian Springs||10 a.m.|
|9/28||at Fairfield||7 p.m.|
|10/12||at Littlestown||7 p.m.|
|10/26||at York Catholic||7 p.m.|
|11/3||Eastern York||2 p.m.|