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YAIAA hot takes: Division II looks wide open in 2016

Also, Dallastown has eyes on youth movement; Northeastern switches up defensive approach

Monday's YAIAA Football Media Day at the York Daily Record/Sunday News office meant the unofficial start of the 2016 football season.

There are still two weeks until training camps open and players put on pads and get on the field. But Monday served as a good primer for that and helped get the excitement level up for the upcoming season. Between the coaches, players, and even the reporters there was plenty of excitement for the upcoming season.

"Ever since the season ended last year, it was a month after the season I was missing putting on the pads already," said Red Lion offensive/defensive lineman Nick Argento. "Hitting and all that fun stuff. Everyone is anxious to get back on the field."

For the fans there is plenty to be excited about as well, as the 2016 YAIAA football season inches closer. Here are some key items to keep an eye leading up to and throughout this upcoming season.

Wide open Division II: If YAIAA football fans are trying to figure out which division will be most competitive, the answer will likely be Division II.

Coming off its first division title since 1982, York Suburban saw several key players depart via graduation, including quarterback Thomas Merkle and wide receiver Collin Mailman. But the Trojans aren't the only ones who saw significant departures at the end of last year, and it puts the seven teams on a relatively even playing field to start the 2016 campaign.

"Everyone wants to know who's the favorite," West York coach Jeremy Jones said. "I don't think there's a clear favorite. All I can tell our kids is we have to take care of our jobs each play, each down, each practice, each game. At the end if we do everything to our best ability we'll be OK and we're playing for something important."

West York will field a young squad when the Bulldogs hit the field; Eastern York has a new head coach; and Suquehannock will be replacing several important pieces. Dover will be trying to rebound from a down year last season while Kennard-Dale and Gettysburg saw a significant number of their starters graduate.

How it all shakes out will become clearer in November, but for now one might need a crystal ball to see into the future for YAIAA Division II.

Bullseye on Dallastown: The Wildcats are expecting to have a bullseye on their backs during the upcoming season. That usually is the case for any defending division champion, especially when they win back-to-back titles, and Dallastown is no exception.

The Wildcats have dropped just one game in the last two years to a divisional opponent.

"No one really talked about Dallastown much last year and then we came and got back-to-back titles," head coach Kevin Myers said. "So that just makes the target larger and, as I tell the guys, we just have to be more focused on our execution more now than ever."

According to Myers, while Dallastown's roster isn't "young," they are "inexperienced," as many of the team's offensive and defensive players that will be in the lineup do not have much varsity experience.

However, that doesn't change the mindset of the players as they head into the new season. The plan for them is to just take it one game at a time.

"We know we have a big target, but we don't really think about it," lineman Brice Register said. "We just go in each week like a new week and just take it one step at a time."

Northeastern's new defensive system: The addition of Brian Freed as defensive coordinator will mean a slight change to the team's defensive style.

Northeastern will implement a three-stack defense under Freed — three downlinemen, three linebackers, five defensive backs — which is being picked up well by the players, according to head coach Jon Scepanski. The new system has some similarities to the team's old one, but it has been a point of focus during summer workouts.

"Our biggest thing is teaching our kids the new system and making sure they understand what we need from them," Scepanski said.

Scepanski and the Bobcats will benefit from a contingent of returning starters, which includes defensive end Shamari Young and linebacker Mason Kling.