If you have hearty appetite for York County boys’ soccer, the next few weeks offer a buffet that should satisfy any craving.
The regular season didn’t really offer a whole lot to chew on.
Central York and Susquehannock have been dominant en route to winning division crowns without a loss.
Now, however, with the postseason looming, things should get really interesting for the Division I champion Panthers and the Division II champion Warriors.
League playoffs: It starts Saturday, Oct. 14, when the York-Adams League Tournament starts with quarterfinal action. If things go according to expectations, the Panthers and Warriors should meet in a highly anticipated league title match on Thursday, Oct. 19.
Of course, in a low-scoring sport such as soccer, results often don’t follow expectations. A more-talented team can control play, but a hot goalie or a few unfortunate shots off the posts, can produce huge upsets.
Still, it’s hard to envision another league team knocking off either the Panthers or the Warriors in the playoffs.
If the Central-Susquehannock title contest does come off, it would be a rematch of a Sept. 9 meeting between the two teams that the Panthers controlled, 4-1. That is Susquehannock’s only loss in a 16-1 season.
“Central was our wake-up call,” Susquehannock coach Brett Maxwell said recently. “If we get to see them again, we would take that opportunity for sure, but we are really looking more at the county tournament as a tune-up for districts.”
Ah, districts. That’s where the Panthers and Warriors will really pour most of their energy.
In the latest District 3 power ratings, Central (16-1) is seeded No. 1 in Class 4-A, while Susquehannock is seeded No. 2 in 3-A, behind only defending District 3 3-A champion Lower Dauphin. The Panthers’ only setback this season is a 1-0 early season decision to Lewisburg, which just happens to be the defending PIAA Class 2-A state champion.
Unfinished business for Central: Central has some unfinished district business from a season ago.
The Panthers look to erase the bitter memories of two heartbreaking district defeats from 2016, when the Panthers fell in the semifinals to Elizabethtown in double overtime and then lost the third-place match to Cumberland Valley on penalty kicks. Those two agonizing losses kept the Panthers from earning a PIAA berth. The hurt was intensified when Elizabethtown excelled in the state playoffs.
"It makes you think of how close you really are to making a big run in states," longtime Panthers head coach Frank Lenno said during York-Adams League Fall Sports Media Day in early August. "Elizabethtown, who we handled for a big portion of that semifinal game, plays in the state finals."
Lenno has coached the Panthers into the state playoffs several times in the past, and he likes what he’s seeing from his 2017 club, despite the fact that the Panthers lost some extremely talented players to graduation from his 2016 team, including Carter Luckenbaugh and Pierrce Miller.
“I just like the effort,” Lenno said after a recent win. “The effort is there for 80 minutes, and we’re very passionate about the game and passionate about playing with each other. We have a lot of players that are versatile, and we have a couple of guys that have stepped it up and are burying a couple of balls for us.”
Warriors "reload": Susquehannock, meanwhile, was narrowly upset in the district quarterfinals a season ago by Fleetwood, 2-1. Like Central, Susquehannock suffered some serious graduation losses from its 2016 team, and some folks thought the Warriors might take a step back. That hasn’t happened.
“A lot of people didn’t think we had quite the same team as we did last year, and we were kind of written off as kind of being in a rebuilding situation,” Maxwell said recently. “But we just call it a reloading season. We knew we had quality players coming up.”
Both Central and Susquehannock will be chasing their first-ever district titles. Susquehannock, however, does own a state title from 2008, when the Warriors took the 2-A crown as the third-place team out of District 3.
Looking to end county drought: No York County boys’ team has captured a District 3 title since 2011, when York Catholic took the 1-A championship.
The Panthers and Warriors are both capable of ending that drought.
Of course, that’s a long way down the road. There’s a ton of soccer yet to be played.
That’s exactly why the next few weeks should be so enjoyable. Good teams playing good competition with championships and legacies on the line.
It's something that York County boys' soccer fans have been hungering for.
— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.