Sometimes it's nice to be able to play your sport without having to worry too much about winning.
That was the case for Central York's Kyle Smith during Monday night's York-Adams League Senior All-Star Boys' Soccer Game at York Suburban High School.
Smith was able to enjoy himself while playing for the Red side, comprised of players from Dallastown, Central, Spring Grove, Red Lion, South Western, Fairfield, New Oxford and York Catholic. Smith and his teammates took on the White side, made up of players from Littlestown, Eastern York, Kennard-Dale, Bermudian Springs, Dover, York Suburban, West York and Susquehannock.
Despite coming out on the losing end of a 3-0 outcome, Smith was able to have fun on a cool, windy evening.
"This was nice," said Smith, who is still undecided on where he wants to continue playing soccer next year in college. "There's tension during the season with some of the teams we play against, but it's different when we get together like this. This was friendly."
Susquehannock's Nathan Bilbie echoed a similar sentiment. The Warrior senior, who set up a goal by West York's Ethan Clark in the first half, had a lot of fun playing with guys that he played against during his high school career.
"This was just a lot of fun being out there with friends, not just from my team, but from other teams," he said. "I know there were a lot of other kids from my club team that were out there, and to play with or against them was just a great experience."
Playing in the contest was also a nice way for Smith to go out after helping his Panthers make school history. Central won the York-Adams League Division I title as well as the league tournament crown before advancing into the PIAA state playoffs for the first time ever.
"It was awesome," Smith said. "Obviously that last game is going to be a heart-breaker, but just looking back, even though we would have liked to have done better, looking back now it was just a great season. It was just the greatest feeling after winning and knowing that we were going to states. We are the best team in Central history."
While Smith's team made school history, Bilbie's team was satisfied to make it back to the state tournament. The Warriors won the PIAA Class AA state title back in 2009, but weren't favored to make a return trip to the state playoffs, especially after having to go through No. 1 seed Gettysburg, whom they beat in penalty kicks.
"Winning in the second round of districts against Gettysburg was big," Bilbie said. "We thought that we had a good chance and had a lot of confidence after beating Hamburg in the first round, 2-0. We work a lot on penalty kicks for practices for districts and counties and I knew we had five solid penalty-kick takers. Once they missed their first PK, I knew that we were going to end it."
While Smith and the Panthers made history in 2013, it was nonetheless a moment from a year ago that Smith will never forget from his career. Central was playing Dallastown in the playoff semifinals and trailing by a goal with about 10 seconds left. Somehow the Panthers were able to tie the score on a goal just before the final buzzer.
"It was a tight game and Oze Navat hit a buzzer-beating goal to send it to overtime," Smith said. "It was an exciting game. Dallastown won that game, but I'll never forget that."
Bilbie had a more personal experience that he'll never forget. The Warrior standout scored the game-winning goal in last year's league playoff quarterfinals to send his team into the semifinals.
"It was a game-winning overtime goal against York Catholic ... at home," he said. "That was pretty awesome. But as a team, definitely going to states this year is something I'll never forget."
Smith also mentioned his team's victory over Wilson in the District 3-AAA third-place game as a close second. The Panthers needed to beat the Bulldogs to make states and were able to pull it out with a victory that required penalty kicks.
"I'll never forget that either," he said. "But just the whole year was great. Our team -- we had a lot of seniors, I think 11 -- and we just had great team chemistry. Everybody was just getting along and we just worked well together."
The game: The Red team took the lead on a penalty-kick goal from Northeastern's Matt Bentz before doubling that lead on Clark's goal. Alex Forst from Delone Catholic capped the scoring in the second half.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.