We’re back with the second half of our end-of-season retrospective. Let’s get right started with number five…
5. Friday night lights
After a thrilling District 3 title run in 2008, the West York football team nearly turned the trick again in 2009.
The Bulldogs started the season 9-0, and once in the playoffs produced a trio of memorable games. West York edged Mechanicsburg, then used a gutsy, two-point conversion call in overtime to stun Conestoga Valley.
Then came the big one: A visit to second-seeded Susquehanna Township, owners of one of the district’s most explosive offenses.
What played out on a frigid night in Harrisburg was nothing short of gripping. The teams exchanged haymakers, their defenses taking turns standing tall. The Indians scored the game’s first touchdown. West York answered with one of their own in the third quarter. Then came the game’s most crucial sequence: The Bulldogs opted to go for two in the hopes of taking the lead for good. Instead, tailback Corey Harris was stood up at the goal line, and West York wasted a few late opportunities to score.
Final score: Susquehanna Township 7, West York 6.
Still, West York proved its stunning 2008 success wasn’t a fluke, and further cemented its foundation as one of the area’s top programs.
Speaking of top teams, Delone Catholic produced another noteworthy season. The Squires won the YAIAA Division III title and qualified for the District 3 Class AAA title game in Hershey, where it was promptly trounced, 42-7, by eventual state champion Lancaster Catholic.
“If you’re here at Hersheypark, you know you’re accomplishing things during your season that are pretty positive,” Delone coach Steve Wiles said after the game. “So hopefully they see this and want to get back here.”
4. Simply Golden
From start to finish of the 2009-10 basketball season, Eastern York was far and away the best boys’ hoops team in the area. They were nearly the best Class AAA team in the state, too.
Led by stud juniors Austin Tillotson and Andrew Nicholas (first- and second-team all-state picks, respectively), the Golden Knights won their first 31 games of the season. They steamrolled to YAIAA and District 3 titles while setting a program record for wins in a season.
Then came a titanic clash: A PIAA semifinal meeting with Neumann-Goretti, the Philadelphia Catholic League juggernaut universally considered one of the nation’s top teams.
The resulting game — an 81-73 loss for Eastern — rose to its billing. The Golden Knights closed to within four in the final quarter, bringing the ear-splitting, pro-Eastern crowd to its feet. It was easily the loudest I’ve ever heard a crowd at a high school basketball game. But the Saints kept their cool. They won the game and, a few days later, a state championship.
But Eastern’s superb season was one few in Wrightsville will soon forget. That is, of course, unless the Golden Knights can do even better next year.
3. Five for fighting
What more can be said about the dominance of the York Catholic girls’ basketball team? The Irish steamrolled to their fifth straight PIAA Class AA championship game — a stunning feat by any stretch of the imagination.
Unfortunately for Catholic, the result was all to familiar. For the second straight year, the Irish fell to District 10 powerhouse Villa Maria, this time by a score of 52-44.
Even so, York Catholic further cemented itself as the state’s most consistent Class AA hoops program. The Irish won another District 3 title, toppling Lancaster Mennonite. And Kevin Bankos’ team might only get better: Catholic will return four of its five starters next year.
Could a sixth straight trip to State College be in the cards? At this rate, you find many people betting against the Irish.
Honorable mention: Speaking of girls’ basketball, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a pair of other girls’ basketball programs. Red Lion, one of the area’s most consistent teams, finally made a breakthrough in states this year. After winning the YAIAA championship, Red Lion embarked on an improbable run through states before losing in the semifinals to Archbishop Ryan.
Nor should West York be left out of the mix. Led by a stacked group of seniors, the Bulldogs set program records for wins in a season, and finished runners-up in the district (a program first) before falling in the PIAA quarterfinals.
2. Bobcat Bonanza
On a bright, spring Saturday in State College, the Northeastern boys’ volleyball team left no doubt as to who the best Class AA team in the state was.
The Bobcats tore through first Eastern York in the PIAA semifinals, then Meadville in the state championship game. After splitting the first two games with the Bulldogs, of District 10, Northeastern sped away to a four-game victory.
Northeastern had been dominating all season, thanks mostly to a deep corps of hitters and the deft distribution of junior setter Nic Shoemaker. In addition to the program’s third state title — and first since 1993 — the Bobcats (25-1) also reeled in YAIAA and District 3 championships.
And with most of their core coming back, there’s no reason to think Northeastern won’t contend again next year.
1. Eagles Fly
What a way to finish up the scholastic season. Bermudian’s 5-3 victory over Martinsburg Central in the PIAA Class AA title game wasn’t exactly pretty, but the Eagles found a way to win. Just like they had all season. (Their starting pitcher might have had something to do with it, too.)
Two things make this story particularly appealing. First is its rags to riches quality. Bermudian started out the season 0-3, and didn’t feature a single Division I players. It was the third seed in the district tournament (which it won).
In short, almost nobody could have seen this coming.
Secondly, one has to consider the sheer magnitude and rarity of the occurrence. The Eagles became just the second YAIAA team to win a state championship, joining Northeastern’s 2004 Class AA title. This wasn’t simply a major milestone for Bermudian Springs, which won its first state team title of any kind. It was a accomplishment for all of YAIAA baseball.
Disagree with the list? Feel like we left out a player or team? Email John Clayton at firstname.lastname@example.org.