It's hard to believe how far the Central York boys' lacrosse program has come during the last two seasons.

Just two years ago, the Panthers finished in last place in York-Adams Division I with a 6-8 record in league competition. In their first three years in league competition, from 2009 through 2011, Central had a combined 15-24 record.

Since then, Central has gone a combined 27-9 overall during the last two years, including a 16-2 mark so far this season. That included the program's first Division I title and league tournament championship.

The Panthers could add another accolade to their list of accomplishments this Tuesday if they defeat Penn Manor (14-5) in the first round of the District 3 playoffs. A win for No. 7-seed Central over the No. 10-seed Comets would give the Panthers their first District 3 Tournament win in program history.

Central York players celebrate their first York-Adams League tournament championship after defeating West York last Thursday. Central is one of four
Central York players celebrate their first York-Adams League tournament championship after defeating West York last Thursday. Central is one of four York-Adams teams competing in the upcoming boys District 3 Tournament. The Panthers face Penn Manor on Tuesday in the first round. Four York-Adams teams are also competing on the girls side. (Bil Bowden photo)

Central is one of four York-Adams teams competing in the boys' District 3 Tournament. Four York-Adams teams are also competing on the girls' side.

Central: Beyond the first round, however, the journey would get much tougher for Central. Should the Panthers beat Penn Manor, they would face the winner of No. 2 Carlisle (14-1) vs. No. 15 Ephrata (12-7), which is a re-match of last year's District 3 title game.

Still, I wouldn't put it past Central to beat the odds, much like it has done this season. Just look at last Thursday night, when the Panthers scored five goals in the last 3 minutes, 33 seconds to beat West York, 13-12, in the York-Adams League Tournament title game. Long-pole mid-fielder Shereif Sutton, who had one goal all season, came off the bench to score the game-winner with 13 seconds left.

Noonan: Wade Noonan, a 2006 Central grad who is in his fourth year coaching the Panthers, gives credit to his coaching staff for building the program into a winner. He also said his players have been dedicated to voluntary offseason workouts.

"We do a lot of workouts in the beginning of the year. Six in the morning, right before school," Noonan said last Thursday. "I'm pretty sure we at least had 20 to 30 kids every time."

Panthers coach Wade Noonan congratulates goalie Shane Walker after last week s 13-12 win over West York in the York-Adams tournament championship game.
Panthers coach Wade Noonan congratulates goalie Shane Walker after last week s 13-12 win over West York in the York-Adams tournament championship game. (Bil Bowden photo)

It sounds much like the schedule of the Panthers' coach, who wakes up at 4 a.m. during the week to get to his daytime job with Kinsley Construction by 6 a.m. While Noonan, 25, looks every bit his age, he talks with the maturity of someone a little bit older, perhaps because of what he's learned in recent years.

"I went to college for a year at Essex Community College (of Baltimore County) and played lacrosse there for a year. School wasn't working out for me. I wanted to come back here and I wanted to be a leader to these kids," Noonan said. "I wanted them to do the things I didn't do with college. I want them to go to college, not for just lacrosse but for school. I'm a firm believer in the kids."

The firm belief in his kids has resulted in the program's winningest season, which will continue in the District 3 Tournament on Tuesday against Penn Manor. And if Central moves onto the quarterfinals on Thursday, I wouldn't be surprised if the Panthers were to pull an upset.

They've already shown they're a team that can beat the odds.

-- Reach John Walk at jwalk@yorkdispatch.com.