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Eastern, Suburban football unfazed by rocky starts

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There’s a lot on the line when York Suburban travels to Eastern York for Friday night’s YAIAA regular season finale, more than many area football fans may have expected.

While the defending league champion Trojans have already wrapped up at least a share of the Division II crown, the Golden Knights can stake their claim to the other half with a victory.

It could come as a surprise, though. After three weeks of the season, the teams owned a combined 1-5 record. But now they're both where they want to be.

After starting with losses against York Catholic and Northeastern, Suburban (7-2, 5-0) enters the regular-season finale on a seven-game win streak.

With his team currently seeded sixth in the eight-team District 3 Class 4A playoff field, Trojans coach Andy Loucks said tying for the title isn’t an option.

“There’s too much riding on this game for us to consider that we have actually accomplished something,” he said. “We’ve got to take care of business for the division, we’ve got to take care of business for districts.

“Our goal all year has just been to finish. We want to finish game, finish what we started so we are going to continue that model to finish the season.”

READ MORE: Which YAIAA football teams could qualify for districts?

With an overall record of 4-5, Eastern (4-1 Division II) isn't in the District 3 playoff picture. Still, first-year head coach Jeff Mesich said being in this spot shows that his team has come a long way from the group that dropped its first three games.

“Obviously, we wish it was for a playoff spot too, but it’s a great consolation prize to try to win the school’s first division title in 26 years,” he said.

READ MORE: Can Eastern York break a 26-year division title drought?

Mesich said a close 18-14 loss to Littlestown in Week 3 showed what the Knights could do heading into league play, and the team responded by winning three straight.

“We’ve kind of been up and down,” he said. “They’ve had to react to the whole gamut of situations you can run into during a football season. For them to be here in Week 10 and have a chance to win the division title, speaks well for them.”

While quarterback Seth Bernstein, who has topped 700 rushing yards so far this season, leads the team statistically, the opportunistic Knights have helped their cause with a plus-11 turnover margin.

READ MORE: These football games will shape the District 3 playoff brackets

“They were fortunate to create turnovers and take advantage of them,” Loucks said. “Anytime you can force the other team to put the ball on the ground and throw bad interceptions is going to help you.”

Trojans quarterback Ben Igo is third in the league in passing with 1,029 yards and nine touchdowns. Plus the running of Jadon Haynes (732 yards, 11 TDs) has sparked the offense.

When asked if he was more concerned with the Trojans’ size or their experience of being defending champs, Mesich was quick to answer.

“Neither one is good for us,” quipped Mesich, who was on the staff at Northeastern before landing the Eastern job. “Even their guys that aren’t that big, they are really good football players. I played against them last year when I was at Northeastern in non-conference, and they are just as much of a bear to get prepared for this year.”

Still, he is glad to face the challenge.

“As a coaching staff we feel good about a lot of development with the kids,” Mesich said. “It’s all come together to give us this great opportunity in Week 10. A game in Week 10 to decide a division title, there’s not a much better (ending) this season.”

READ MORE: Week 10 YAIAA football preview