The York High football team celebrated just one victory through the whole of last season. This season, though, the party never stops.
The Falcons went 1-9 in 2016. They are 9-3 (and counting) in 2017 and they will host a VHSL Class 3 state quarterfinal Saturday.
The transformation still feels “surreal,” senior left tackle Ian Murray said. “I remember how excited we were after our first win of last season. Now we’re like that almost every week. It’s amazing.”
The York coaching staff did not feel last season’s dismal record reflected the true talent level of the team.
The Falcons fielded a team full of underclassmen, including seven freshman starters. They also were plagued by injuries. All of those freshman starters missed time, and the depth chart changed from week to week.
Still, while head coach Doug Pereira said he expected an improvement, he did not anticipate such a precipitous climb.
“If you told me going into the season that we would have home field throughout, I would have said you were absolutely crazy,” Pereira said. “But that’s where we are now.”
No. 3 seed York will host No. 4 seed Hopewell (8-4) at Bailey Field at 2 p.m. Saturday for the Region 3A title.
The winner will advance to face the victor from Region 3B, either No. 3 seed James Monroe (6-6) or No. 5 seed Culpeper (6-6). York holds a better power rating than both and so would host the state semifinal.
The Falcons have benefited this postseason from luck they never seemed to enjoy last season.
In the opening round, York rolled past No. 6 seed Park View 40-8, while No. 7 seed Lakeland upset No. 2 seed Norcom. So the Falcons found themselves with a surprise home game in the second round.
In the second round, York scored a last-minute 18-13 win against Lakeland, and Hopewell upset No. 1 seed Phoebus. Again, the Falcons would get to play in front of their home crowd.
York fans spilled out of the bleachers after the win against Lakeland last Friday, and players want to trigger the same jubilation this weekend.
“Seeing our fans come down onto the field and celebrate with us, I think that pumped us up even more,” Murray said. “We want to keep that going.”
Coming into this season, the mood around Falcons football players and fans was muted. A 1-9 season will do that.
“Coming into this year, it’s hard not to be expecting that same result,” senior wide receiver Adam Lytle said.
Then York started the year with a 16-10 upset victory against Class 5 Gloucester. In 2016, the Falcons did not win their first game until the sixth week of the season.
Suddenly, the tone and expectation of the season changed.
“People in the school, even some people on the team, were doubting what we could do,” Murray said. “But as we played, we realized: We’re a really good team and we could take this a long way.”
VHSL Region 3A championship game
No. 4 seed Hopewell (8-4) at No. 3 York (9-3), 2 p.m., Saturday (at Bailey Field). Winner advances to Class 3 state semifinals.
Yanchulis can be reached by phone at 757-298-5176. Follow her on Twitter @KYanchulis.