By Zach Miller and Brandon Stoneburg
With seven weeks left to the start of the high school football season, The Evening Sun’s Countdown to Kickoff continues with a look at the Fairfield Green Knights. Brandon Stoneburg and Zach Miller will continue highlighting one team from the Hanover-Adams area every Friday leading up to the start of the season.
Fairfield Green Knights
Last year: 5-5, tied for fourth in Division III
Coach: Darwin Seiler (4th season)
Key players lost: QB Mason Flickinger (1,012 passing yards, 15 TDs, 9 INTs), Antijuan Washington (392 receiving yards, 4 TDs), RB Michael Quealy, WR Brandon Hummel, WR Alex Irwin, RB/LB Brandon Selman
Key players returning: WR/CB Matt Petrie, WR/CB Aaron Moore, QB/WR/DB Tyler Karsteter
Key stretch: Oct. 23 - Nov. 6 (vs. Delone Catholic, at York Catholic, vs. Littlestown)
The final three weeks of the season. In the previous two years, Fairfield entered this stretch in the hunt for a district playoff spot, and both times they've struggled (1-2 in 2013, 0-3 in 2014). A good team has to be able to step up in October and November.
Delone will be solid again after they beat Fairfield, 17-14, in a bizarre game last season when the Squires were allowed to run more than a minute off the clock at the end of the game despite not running a play. The Green Knights were not happy afterward and they'll be out for revenge. York Catholic smoked Fairfield last year, but the Irish will be in rebuilding mode, and Littlestown is still young. Depending on how the first seven weeks go, this stretch could be important for Fairfield's morale or playoff hopes.
Circle this game on the schedule: Sept. 25 at Biglerville
This rivalry has quietly picked up some steam the last two years.
Last season, the Green Knights pulled off a shocking, come-from-behind, 20-19 victory over Biglerville, beating the Canners for the second year in a row after losing the previous nine meetings.
Afterward, senior Michael Quealy said, "This is huge for our school. I can't even put it into words. This is like a Michigan-Ohio State win for us."
Okay, that might be a stretch, but this one should be entertaining and could be a solid early-season test to gauge whether Fairfield will be a postseason contender again. Or it could be a big revenge game for the Canners.
Storyline to follow: Can Fairfield keep trending upwards?
Fairfield has been a program on the rise the last two seasons. After reaching the district playoffs just twice in team history, the Green Knights narrowly missed a second consecutive trip in 2014 when they lost three games in a row to close out the season. That untimely losing streak put a damper on what had been an impressive season up to that point.
There are a few ways to look at the Green Knights' 2014 campaign. An optimist would look at their .500 record for the second consecutive season after four seasons in which they totaled just one win...combined. A pessimist might point at their 3-3 record in games decided by five points or less and say their record may have been skewed. Their record could've been anywhere between 2-8 and 8-2 if a few of those close games had gone the other way.
Fairfield did have the league’s fifth-best passing defense and finished with a plus-11 turnover ratio, which was the second-best ratio in the league. But, their rush offense and defense were both in the bottom five of the league.
So for as confusing as Darwin Seiler's squad was last season, it may be even more perplexing this season, and while expectations have changed, making a playoff run could be quite a challenge for the Green Knights this season. The Green Knights will have to replace their leading passer (Mason Flickinger), their leading rusher (Flickinger), and their top two leading receivers (Antijuan Washington, Alex Irwin) from last season. Flickinger threw for 1,012 yards and 15 touchdowns, and Washington was first-team all league last season, but moved to Maryland in the offseason.
What's left in the cupboard? Well, Matt Petrie, who totaled 400 rushing and receiving yards, will be entering his senior season. Tyler Karsteter and Aaron Moore will also be expected to take on a larger role in their senior season.
The quarterback position will be a big question mark in the wake of Flickinger's departure. Karsteter and Jacob Irwin were both listed behind the senior last season, but neither attempted a pass. Addressing that position should be priority No. 1 in the preseason.
2015 ScheduleSept. 4: Newport
Sept. 11: James Buchanan
Sept. 18: at Silver Oak Academy (Md.)
Sept. 25: at Biglerville
Oct. 2: Bermudian Springs
Oct. 9: at Hanover
Oct. 16: at York Tech
Oct. 23: Delone Catholic
Oct. 30: at York Catholic
Nov. 6: Littlestown
Countdown to kickoff scheduleJune 12: New Oxford
June 19: Hanover
June 26: Littlestown
July 3: Spring Grove
July 10: Biglerville
July 17: Fairfield
July 24: South Western
July 31: Delone Catholic
Aug. 7: Gettysburg
Aug. 14: Bermudian Springs
Aug. 21: Over/Unders
Aug. 28: Top returning units