YORKTOWN — “Friday Night Lights” is a series looking in on area high school football programs ahead of the 2023 season.
The York High School Falcons are hopeful for a successful 2023 campaign.
Doug Pereira has been at the helm of Falcons football for 17 years. He’s seen many teams grace the field over the years, but this 2023 group of guys is something he’s really excited about.
“I’m ecstatic about this bunch. They’ve worked their tails off during the off-season and they have really gelled so far. Their leadership is absolutely above average,” Pereira said.
During the 2022 season, the Falcons put up a 7-4 record. After making the playoffs, the Falcons lost in the first round to the eventual state champions, Phoebus High School.
“We had a good year overall, our players were solid. We dealt with a couple of injuries here and there, which is to be expected. Overall, a good year. We’ve had a pretty good run the past six years and our players last season were just continuing that trend,” Pereira said.
Pereira and the Falcons lost 17 seniors to graduation. While that large number may frighten some, the Falcons are not in the least bit scared.
“While we lost 17 to graduation, it’s not hurting us all that much because we’ve been really good at getting guys ready to go in their place. My senior class from 2022 were key cogs in the wheel for the last couple of years and losing them is pretty big but we’re ready,” Pereira said.
Starting returnees for the team include offensive linemen Hayden Blanchard, Xavier Ransome, Jacob Mitchell, and Eddie Corabona. Linebacker Jayden Johnston also returns. Other key players returning include linebacker Elijah James, quarterback Brady Conner, defensive back Jamarcus Tyler, and offensive/defensive lineman Jared Bays.
During the 2023 season, Pereira is approaching the slate one game at a time, with the safety and well-being of his players at the forefront.
“The top thing for me is that we stay healthy. I also hope that the experience of playing high school football kicks in quickly as opposed to us still having no clue what we’re doing three weeks in. That would scare me to death, but I know that won’t happen. These guys know what they are doing on the field,” Pereira said.
According to Pereira, the York schedule is tough this year, but they approach every game one week at a time.
“All of our games are tough and are all championships in our minds. We call every game a championship. The second game of our schedule is against Warhill and we’ve played them in the ninth game of the season for the past five years. To have them second, that’s a challenge right off the bat. Poquoson always presents a challenge to us, Tabb always presents a challenge. The two other teams that have to be mentioned this year are Lafayette, you always have to be ready to play them, and Grafton, they were most improved last year and they’ve only gotten better from that,” Pereira said.
As a head coach, Pereira is tough on his kids because of the belief and pride that he has in every one of his players.
“I consider myself a players coach to a degree. The law is still my law no matter what, but with our program, I hold the integrity of the program above any individual in the program at all times. I don’t have any problem getting in somebody’s ear if he needs to hear something, but that player is also going to know that I respect him,” Pereira said.
When the team looks for inspiration, the motto is “practice, prepare, compete, and live like a champion.”
“I always remind the kids that everything that they do on a daily basis should be in an attempt to achieve some championship in some area of life,” Pereira said.
The team will don blue jerseys this season, something that hasn’t been worn in seven years. With the blue jerseys, the team is also using the acronym B.L.U.E.: Believe, Lift Up, Unite, Every Play.
“We preach at York that when you play football, you are playing for something bigger than yourself. We want them to know their role and accept their role and perform their role to the best of their ability no matter what,” Pereira said.
York’s away opponents this season include Gloucester, Tabb, Jamestown, New Kent, and Lafayette high schools. York’s home opponents this season include Warhill, Smithfield, Poquoson, Bruton, and Grafton high schools.
Game one of the 2023 football season for York kicks off on the road against Gloucester High School on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m.