RED LION -- It's hard to believe that the Central York boys' soccer program, one of the most successful outfits in York-Adams League history, hasn't won a league tournament title in seven years.
That shocked Panthers' coach Frank Lenno, too. So Lenno decided to take his club into the gymnasium at the high school, where all the championship banners from the various school programs adorn the walls.
And there it was: Boys' Soccer, 2006.
That visual was just further motivation for a hungry Panthers' side. The reality is, however, that it probably wasn't necessary.
Not with a roster full of 10 seniors who are eager to get a taste of a true championship. Unfortunately, that was bad news for a Susquehannock team that was Central's opponent in a playoff semifinal contest at Horn Field Tuesday night.
The Division I-champion Panthers played perhaps their best game of the season, dominating the Warriors over the first 40 minutes of play. Goals by Anthony Trona, Kyle Smith, Erik Rishel and Pierce Miller propelled Central into Thursday's final against West York after a convincing 4-1 victory.
The Bulldogs, the Division II champs, earned their ticket to the final after downing York Suburban, 1-0, in the second overtime of the other semifinal Tuesday.
"Being a senior, we've been here many times," Smith said. "We've had our hearts broken before. We're riding high right now and doing well. Nobody is slacking off and everybody is working for each other. But (we know) that we can't come into any game and let down at all."
The Panthers nearly scored in the fifth minute when a shot just skipped past the left post. That didn't matter, though. Trona ripped a rocket from 35-yards out into the cage in the ninth minute.
Smith doubled the lead with 15 minutes left in the first half before Rishel essentially put the game away with 6:32 before the intermission.
Smith, a left back, sensed that his team was playing well midway through the first half when they were able to control play without much difficulty against the Warriors.
"There was one point when (the ball) came over to me a few times and I just hit it off and I watched it move to the other side of the field," Smith said. "And I was just watching, and I'm like, 'we look clean.' I knew we were good, but seeing that ... it really opened my eyes."
With the way the Panthers are playing, even Lenno can get caught up in the excitement.
"These guys are just so excited to play soccer," Lenno said. "They are having so much fun right now. Everybody. You just can't beat the atmosphere before games. The way that they talk to each other ... it's just so much fun for everyone."
One big difference between this talented Panther squad and the ones from years past is the mentality set forth by the seniors, such as Smith, Rishel, Royce Clemens and others. In the past, there may have been some bickering during pressure situations, but Smith and company have stressed staying positive.
"The biggest thing is that I didn't want anybody to get down on each other," Smith said. "Yelling at each other ... that's when our team starts to fall apart. But our team chemistry is great. I've never seen it this good before. Everybody gets along, everybody loves each other. We're like a family."
With one of their goals -- a division title -- already secured, Lenno and company are hoping to cross off a second goal -- a league title -- against a similarly-talented West York squad that they didn't face in the regular season.
"A well-coached team," Lenno said of West York. "I know that. They're going to be well-versed and know what's coming at them. Hopefully we'll play like we did tonight."
Nathan Bilbie broke up the shutout attempt with a goal for Susquehannock with 9:30 remaining.
Bulldogs take thriller: West York earned its ticket to the final on Eddie Rodriguez's goal at 10:33 of the second overtime. Rodriguez is a freshman.
Darian McCauley made five saves to get the shutout and the win in goal. David Brubaker had four saves in a losing effort.
Both teams had five shots on goal. Suburban had a 5-4 edge in corners in the tightly-played game.
The two teams split 1-0 games during the regular season.
OTHER BOYS' SOCCER
YORK CATHOLIC 11, HANOVER 0: At York Catholic, Brian Riley led the Irish to the York-Adams Division III victory by scoring three goals and adding one assist. Kevin Nguyen and Mason Elliott each scored two goals, while Zachary Ingram scored one goal and added one assist. The Irish defense held the Nighthawks to three shots on goal.
-- Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.