During a phone interview last week, Red Lion football coach Pat Conrad said something that stuck out to me.
I had called with regards to this story on Andrew Zeller, who's being recruited by several Division I schools. Early on in the conversation, Conrad said of the York-Adams area that "it's not like Division I schools are pounding down our doors here."
Then he paused for a second.
"But I think that's changing," he said. "I think our league is getting recognized as a league with some pretty good football players in it."
I had heard a similar statement a few days earlier, when I spoke with Dallastown head coach Kevin Myers about rising senior linebacker Ben Kline, another local player courting D-I interest.
So it's worth asking, is the YAIAA getting more respect when it comes to football?
It's no secret that, when it comes to the gridiron, the YAIAA is lightly regarded by some in the district and/or state. There are reasons for this. Only one Class AAA or higher team in the area (West York in 2009) has won a District 3 title. Class AAAA teams in particular have struggled in the postseason.
But there is evidence that area football teams are improving. Perhaps the most compelling of which is the increasing willingness of big-time schools to recruit local athletes. Former Susquehannock standout Chaz Powell earned a full ride to Penn State. He was followed William Penn's Malik Generett (UConn) in 2008, who was followed by Central's Kyle Baublitz (PSU) in 2009. And now Kline and Zeller are the latest to catch the attention of D-I colleges.
Of course, the only way to reach the level of leagues like the Mid-Penn and Lancaster-Lebanon is to equal their success on the field. While more York-Adams teams seem to be making the district playoffs (12 qualified this year, up from 7 in 2008 ... read my past analysis of the YAIAA district playoff performances here) those squads have yet to catch up to some of their district neighbors. Since the district playoffs expanded in 2006, no Class AAAA team has advanced further than the district quarterfinals. And when I talked to Scout.com's Bob Lichtenfels last week for my story on Kline, he said he believed the only thing holding the Wildcats linebacker back from getting more scholarship offers was the caliber of competition in the area.
So certainly, area football teams still have some catching up to do. But is YAIAA football closing the gap? It's worth considering.
- YDR - Dallastown's Max Lilie cruised to the YAIAA Class AAA boys' tennis title on Monday.
- Evening Sun: Delone's Ben Nace survived a tough match with York Catholic's James Bishoff to win the Class AA league tennis title.
- Evening Sun: South Western rolled to a boys' lacrosse win against Spring Grove on Monday.