Senior quarterback Brett Smith was a freshman the last time the Squire football team earned a trip to Hershey for the District 3 title game.
He was not playing in the game. He was merely a fan.
This year, when the Squires (8-3) make the trip to take on Steelton-Highspire (8-3) in the District 3 Class A title game at 1 p.m. Friday at Hersheypark Stadium, Smith will be at the helm. Alongside him will be 13 other seniors that hope to bring home the coveted title.
On the other sideline will be a Steel-High team that has experienced an incredible turnaround from a year ago, in which it finished 2-8.
"These guys have fought through some wars," Steel-High head coach Tom Hailey said. "I think the biggest thing to the transformation was that they got used to me and trusted me. I also think we have an excellent staff and they do a great job of reinforcing what we are teaching them about football and life, and this year it all came together."
The Rollers started the season 3-0 before falling into a three-game losing streak that began with a 47-26 loss to Trinity, a team that also beat Delone, 49-27.
"We just took put on our pads that week and went out and worked harder," Hailey said. "We always tell the guys not to get too complacent, so we just had to get back to the basics."
Steel-High is led by running back Robert Martin, who has rushed for 1,639 yards on 119 carries and scored 17 touchdowns. He is averaging 13.8 yards per carry.
Hailey said, "We have several explosive playmakers, but we have to make sure we don't put our defense in a hole."
As far as the Squires go, Hailey knows he is going to get a challenge.
"They are a bunch of guys who want to win a district title just like us," he said. "They are a senior-laden team with some talented skill players. They play hard. Their offensive and defensive lines come off the ball hard and quick. You can see from the film that they are a very well-coached team."
In McSherrystown, the Squires are hard at work preparing for their opponent.
"We are feeling really good," Smith said. "We had a great practice today (Tuesday), and are looking sharp. We are refining things. We know what we think will work and are making sure we run it to perfection."
Last week, in the Squires' 28-16 victory over Columbia, Smith and running back Matt Giuffreda both pitched in two touchdowns. Smith also went 8-for-12 passing for 106 yards.
The fact defenses must respect Smith's ability to run is something Delone plans to continue to take advantage of.
"It opens up a lot of things when defenses have to focus on both threats," Smith added. "It opens up a lot of things in our running game."
The Squires know they are facing an athletic team when they take on the Rollers.
"They are very quick," Smith said. "They like to run the ball just like us. They will run it down your throats and then, when you least expect it, they will pass the ball. They are going to fight. They are a really good team."
For Smith and the rest of the seniors, Friday will be about making their own memories at Hershey. They just hope a Hershey bar is not the only thing they bring home.
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