New teams emerging in Division III
YAIAA athletes compete against GameTimePA.com reporters in feats of strength.
Monday's YAIAA Football Media Day was a fun but exhausting event for many involved.
Not just because of the amount of hours or interviews, but because of the physical activities that took place. With competitions between players and reporters in push-ups, wall sits and planks, media day had a little bit of everything.
While I was admittedly disappointed (and sore) after narrowly losing the push-ups contest to Delone Catholic's Bryce Perkins, I did manage to learn a few things from the teams in attendance. Here were some of the highlights, from my vantage point.
The battle for Division III: Last season saw two upstart teams, Biglerville and Hanover, emerge as co-division champs. But those squads have both lost many key contributors, while a few traditional powerhouses are poised for strong seasons.
After winning at least 10 games the previous four seasons, Bermudian Springs slipped to 5-5 with a young roster in 2015. But the Eagles bring back 15 letterwinners, with a good mix of talent at the skill positions and on the line. Finishing last season on a 5-1 run also has head coach Jon DeFoe feeling confident.
"Though we had a nice rebound last year, the whole season as a body didn't meet with our expectations," DeFoe said. "We're looking to get back to that level. I think you go as far as your senior leadership takes you and we struggled with that for the first half of last season. These guys have been around success, and I know we have the capability."
The Eagles aren't the only Division III team with high expectations. York Catholic went 6-6 last season and brings back a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, including 1,000-yard rusher Jakkar Kinnard and quarterback/safety Dan Yokemick.
The Fighting Irish will be gunning to make the district title game for the fourth straight season, but should also be in the race for the Division III crown.
And don't forget about Delone Catholic. The Squires went just 4-6 last season but bring back eight of 11 starters on both sides of the ball. They'll be in the mix as well.
Adams County teams looking to return to prominence: It wasn't a fun season for Littlestown or Gettysburg in 2015. Neither team won more than two games and both endured its fair share of blowouts.
But it wasn't long ago that the Bolts and Warriors were two of the best teams in Adams County. Gettysburg made the playoffs in both 2013 and 2014 and Littlestown posted seven-straight winning seasons from 2007 to 2013 and won 12 games the final year of that streak.
Despite the recent struggles, both team's head coaches said there is a new sense of optimism surrounding their programs.
"We took a long, hard look at everything we do," Littlestown coach Mike Lippy said. "We didn't know whether we needed to change our scheme, but honestly it was just a matter of getting back to hard work. We've had really fantastic participation from the senior class and we just have to get our confidence back. We're hoping to get off to a good start."
Added Gettysburg head coach Matt Heiser, "There was a learning curve last year but mentally we're going to come back a lot stronger. Our seniors are taking the time to talk to the younger guys and help them out."
While they have numerous questions to answer this season, the Bolts and Warriors enter 2016 with more experience than they did last year. But the biggest key for both teams might be getting off to a good start.
Littlestown dropped its first three games in 2015 to out-of-conference opponents and Gettysburg lost its season-opener to South Western by 25 points. Lippy said the Bolts' early-season slate is more manageable this year and the team should be in a better position to succeed.
South Western opening up QB competition: The Mustangs bring back 14 letterwinners from last year's playoff team, but one spot that needs to be filled is quarterback.
While Brock Geiman was one of the league's best signal callers in 2015, South Western head coach Damian Poalucci believes the team's current crop might be even better suited for the position. Right now, the competition is between senior Nate VanCampen and junior Sean Wolfe.
"I like when quarterbacks compete, I think it's good for them to earn a spot because it shows the guys in front of them that they have to work," Poalucci said. "Physically, Nate and Sean might be better than Brock. Brock was a great athlete who played quarterback and was very good, but these guys might be more natural quarterbacks."
VanCampen already has varsity experience as a safety, but Poalucci hasn't named a front-runner for quarterback yet. At media day, VanCampen said he learned from Geiman the importance of staying relaxed.
"You're gonna hear a lot of stuff from fans and people outside the team and they're gonna put a lot of pressure on you," VanCampen said. "You just have to tone it out and do your thing."