Eastern prepares for stiff test
Watching Eastern York practice Wednesday afternoon, it wasn't hard to figure out what the Golden Knights' emphasis is heading into Friday's matchup with Kennard-Dale.
Eastern spent at least the last hour of its practice focusing on defense, specifically figuring out a way to stop the Rams power-rushing, option attack.
That offense is led by senior fullback Ethan Hornbarger, fresh off a 23-carry, 136-yard outing in a win against Dallastown last Saturday.
"He's a good football player," Eastern coach Jeff Shutter said after Wednesday's practice. "If I had that kid, I'd give him the ball and make you stop me. And that's what we're preparing for, because he is a weapon."
In past years, this would have been considered a mismatch. But after a total of six wins the last three seasons, the unbeaten Golden Knights (3-0) have opened eyes this year.
Two of those three wins were against Class A foes Columbia and Fairfield. Suffice to say Kennard-Dale (1-2) will provide a much stiffer test.
"We're not overconfident, we're definitely not overlooking Kennard-Dale," senior tailback Jared Smeltzer said. "Kennard-Dale is one of the toughest opponenets that I've played the last few years."
Smeltzer and fellow running back Andy Siple have the brightest spots in the Eastern program the last two years -- both have more than 300 yards rushing already this year.
But Eastern's success or failure in YAIAA Division II this year will likely rest with its defense. That unit allowed an average of 41 points in six league games last year -- all Eastern losses.
"We're a better defense right now and we've played pretty well," Shutter said. "We're going to go as far as the defense takes us. I believe we'll score points on offense and move the ball, but you have to stop people to win."
Friday night's matchup will tell if indeed the Knights can contain Hornbarger and the Kennard-Dale attack. But at the very least, it seems attitudes at Eastern are changing. That much was clear after the Knight's 34-7 win against Fairfield last week.
"We didn't play all that well on Friday night, and they were just as disappointed as I was," Shutter said. "That's a good sign to me. That they realize they could play better than they played. I think they expect better out of themselves now."
All in the family: While Jared Smeltzer continues to shine on the football field, another Smeltzer is making waves in another sport for the Golden Knights.
Jared's cousin, Josh Smeltzer, is the leading scorer for Eastern's boys' soccer squad. Josh Smeltzer has eight goals for the unbeaten Golden Knights (4-0-1).
"He's a good soccer player, I guess," Jared Smeltzer said Wednesday. "I'm not a big soccer fan, but I guess he's good."